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Southern and Thameslink travel experiences

A new temporary timetable has been introduced for Southern Rail services following a period of serious disruption.

Transport Focus will monitor the situation through published performance statistics, but we also want to give industry and Government the human side of the problem. We want your stories and travel diaries, to share how even a few minutes of delay can impact your life. We are looking at Southern passengers, and those on the wider Thameslink route.

The current diaries, stories and tweets are on our Southern timetable change page. Below you can find previous days’ entries.

 

Thameslink passengers have suffered numerous delays and cancellations due to overhead signalling issues.

Feedback from the app, social media, and our own experiences have confirmed that the passenger information and support over this period have been variable.

One colleague reports:

“I deliberately went  to City Thameslink at 6pm to see how the disruption was being handled. One member of staff responded to my question of how can I get to St Pancras, as if I was some  sort of idiot for not knowing that there were no trains going from City Thameslink to St Pancras, he was so rude! He gave me no alternative information.”

Our chief executive, Anthony Smith, ended up asking a fellow passenger for information at St Pancras on Tuesday evening. He says:

“There were 10 members of staff on the other side of the (closed) barrier, and just one answering passenger queries. More than 100 passengers were waiting, with no useful information on the screens. This makes you realise how useful proper message boards would be.”

We are now seeking a meeting with the Thameslink passenger director to raise this issue urgently.

In the mean time, we encourage all affected passengers to claim compensation.

Also this week, we met the RMT union to discuss the ongoing industrial action and its impact on passengers, among other things

Travel tales

Our senior policy advisor Phil describes his journey home from St Pancras on Tuesday as ‘pandemonium.’

Our Board member Isabel had a delay of around 13 minutes at Gipsy Hill on Monday. The waiting room was locked despite temperatures of around 5 degrees. She also noted that, despite the late departure and further delays en route, the train arrived just a minute late; clearly a generous time had been allowed on the timetable.

From the webform

Lucas B, travelling from Blackfriars to Hackbridge:

“I needed to get home from work on Wed. 26th October. BFR to HCB.
The 19:30 Thameslink service I’d planned to get was cancelled. The train that normally runs at 20:00 did not show on the app or on any screens so I assumed that it was cancelled too. The 20:30 showed as cancelled.
The last train from BFR to HCB is at 21:00 (!) and I could not risk waiting in case it got cancelled too.

“I travel on Oyster so in effect I pay extra when using the tube (which I cannot afford). So I walked to Waterloo Station and caught a South West Trains service to Clapham Junction. The train had 10 (or 12?) coaches, was on time, clean, and had a guard who regularly provided information.

“I changed at Clapham Junction to get a Southern Rail service to Hackbridge. When I arrived on the platform, a (slightly delayed) service to Hackbridge was just closing its doors. The following service to Hackbridge (20:11 I think it was) arrived about 5 mins late. The train was dirty and smelly, and only a 4 coach service.

“I finally arrived home at 21:00, almost an hour later than planned.

“I won’t be able to claim Delay repay as I travel on Oyster and I did not go through the barriers at BFR as I’d already realised the 19:30 had been cancelled.

“I have claimed Delay repay on previous occasions but have always had to wait well over 4 weeks – and then a voucher for £1.60 turned up. It’s hardly worth the effort.”

Paul H, travelling from Victoria to Three Bridges:
“We were part of the debacle that unfolded on Tuesday evening. The 22:32 ex VIC train progressed slowly southwards with the driver doing his best to keep everyone appraised. It was originally scheduled to go to Chichester with several passengers heading there, however, some faceless idiot decided to truncate the service at Three Bridges and the driver again tried to ascertain what was happening and was informed that buses were to be at Three Bridges on arrival. So what was there when we arrived, absolutely NOTHING!

“How can Network rail and Southern continue to get away with this? I was originally a huge fan of Southern (where is Chris Burchill?), but this current bunch are nothing but profit driven vampires sucking the most out of income, whilst constantly kicking the rest of us fare-paying suckers in the teeth. Do they care, do they even travel by train?

“It’s beyond a joke and no-one who can be bothered or cares, does.”

Sue B, whose train from Leighton Buzzard to Milton Keynes was cancelled:
“This journey has been terminated for few months now. I actually loved the Southern service 90% were on time except for lack of train crew.beautiful new clean trains and better time choice for myself work or home. Why can’t it be sorted and brought back again.”

Helena P, travelling from Banstead to Victoria:
“On arrival at the station the departure screen indicated that the train was cancelled. No information about further trains to Victoria. No live or recorded announcements for quite some time. I used the Help machine to find out our options and, after wasting quite a bit of time convincing the operator, whose first language was clearly not English and who I could hardly understand, that I was at Banstead and not Stansted Airport, he then offered me ticket information when I had already said, slowly and clearly several times, that I wanted to know the best way to get to Victoria. I gave up.

“A train going the opposite way, to Epsom Downs, appeared at the same time as the next Victoria train (now on the screen) showed delays (no time indicated). We got on it in desperation and, at Epsom Downs, discovered that this train was returning to Victoria, but without stopping at any sheduled stops other than Sutton and Clapham Junction. It took an hour to get to Victoria, travelling so slowly it could easily have made its usual stops and picked up all the unlucky passengers (including at Banstead) who were waiting.

“There was an appalling lack of information about travel options at Banstead, no staff of course and then a bad decision by Southern to cut all the intermediate stops of the train we luckily got.

“All this happened in the early evening, at the end of a long day, with nowhere warm to sit at Banstead.”

Travel diary

This week’s diary is from a female commuter aged 55-64, who travels to/from Nutfield and London Victoria with Southern.

Southern case study 10 Nov

 

From the app

angry

“Because it’s nearly 2 hours late.”

“I had a 3 hour journey last night and got in at 22:40. I was knackered. I wanted to get the 06:49 but that and most of the other rush hour trains are cancelled from Reigate. Unless I get the 06:24 every day there is no chance I can get to work at a reasonable time. I don’t get to leave until 19:30 most nights.”

“Late again.”

“Train arrived into London bridge late and left late. too many peow teying to get on the train. stuck outside east Croydon due to a red signal and then again at the station.”

“Southern spoiled the lewes bonfire.”

bored

 

“Ran 15 minutes late.”

“Groundhog Day.16:17 Victoria – Eastbourne/Littlehampton for Hampden Park. Late, etc., etc.”

“Late to work because of the strike timetable.”

“It’s strike day, said many people trying to get too few trains. Got the bus instead even though I gave a train season ticket.”

“Late running on strike day.”

frustrated

 

“Still stuck 90 mins after thought I was leaving VIC.”

“The 1600 Vic to BTN remains cancelled (month 5 ) due to guard sickness – and yet it is an opo train.”

“Had to wait 20 minutes for the driver to turn up.”

“Had to take a different route as thameslink was suffering delays and cancellations due to overhead wire issues (third day in a row). Southern train was also delayed. Around 30 mins late to work and generally a bit pi***d off.”

“There’s another strike cause by govia inability to negotiate.”

“I gave up – thameslink are s**t.”

“The 0815 brighton to Victoria hasn’t operated for months.   It’s almost like it’s been removed.”

happy

 

“I caught a train that was almost on time and had a seat!”

“5:12 Hampden Park – Victoria. On time.”

“All ok.”

indifferent

 

“Train on time wit no issues – seating very uncomfortable.”

“All was fine.”

 

relaxed

 

“All was fine.”

“16:17 Victoria – Eastbourne/Littlehampton for Hampden Park. Late again. Overcrowded again. And, conductor hidden away comfortable and cosy, not giving too much of a stuff – again.”

“5:12 Hampden Park – Victoria, on time.”

stressed

 

“Irritatingly late as always.”

“Train delayed en route by 5-10 mins plus very uncomfortable seating.”

 

worried

 

“Late departing owing to train crew having been delayed.”

“New train – have to battle to seats and as there are no priority signs I had to ask several times before anyone would let me sit down. At 8 months pregnant this is not cool.”

To read updates from previous days, click here.

This week the RMT union announced strikes to fall on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

It is passengers who suffer most in the event of strikes. We issued a statement calling for Southern and the trade union to get back around the table and resolve this matter without bringing the railway to a standstill over the Christmas period.

There were hundreds of comments on the BBC article – here are three we thought summed up passengers’ frustration:

4 Nov Southern strike story comment 14 Nov Southern strike story comment 24 Nov Southern strike story comment 3

 

The BBC also has this question and answer article on the strikes.

Disruption for Brightonites (and others)
On Tuesday thousands were delayed by an electrical fault. The incident happened at about 4pm, resulting in the cancellation of almost all trains back to Brighton and Hove.

We heard of an incident where around 100 passengers were left at Three Bridges around midnight, unable to get on a service and with staff not knowing when or if buses were going to be provided. We have raised this with Govia Thameslink Railway, asking for an incident review.

Former transport minister Norman Baker was caught up in the disruption and posted a lengthy Facebook item as an ‘open letter’ to Southern.

Norman Baker facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prize draw
Meanwhile in more positive news, we’ve found a winner for the £100 cash draw open to all those who have been filling in our travel diary app. Everyone who completed a minimum of 25 entries over the course of a month was entered. Our winner is a regular Southern commuter (going between Hampden Park and London Victoria).

Travel tales

This morning our senior policy advisor Phil encountered a lot of cancellations on his trip from Thornton Heath to City Thameslink, via Streatham. He noted that there were apologies, but no explanations, made on the announcements. Information screens warned of disruption.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week there were also delays and cancellations with few apologies and no explanations.

And on Tuesday Phil was caught up in the disruption mentioned above. He notes: “Surprise, surprise – not a single acknowledgement that any of these trains was late, let alone an apology or explanation. I dare say that it’s just become the norm now.”

Board member Isabel had two on-time trains on Tuesday but on Wednesday experienced a confusing delay when her train was re-designated half way through her journey. She eventually got into Victoria 18 minutes behind schedule.

Isabel reports: “When I did arrive, my lunch companion said he has given up taking Southern from Chichester since the beginning of this calendar year, and now drives to a different station so he can take Southwestern.”

Travel diary

This week we hear from a female commuter, aged 55-64, who travels to/from Hassocks and Brighton with Thameslink.

GTR case study 4 Nov

 

From the app

angry

“Late again, no explanation, southern just don’t care.”
“Absolute chaos. Everything cancelled. They’re blaming it on a broken down train, but aside from the fact that they obviously aren’t investing in their broken trains while they post their profits and claim their dividends, they had plenty of time to make alternative arrangements today but they did nothing. Usual story of no information, staff left clueless and helpless. A disgrace.”
“20 mins late No compensation.”
“My usual train was not running due to the RMT strike and the next one due 12 minutes later was delayed by 5 minutes resulting in a 17 minute delay to get to work.”
“The new 700 train I was on was delayed because the doors weren’t working and eventually after 20 minutes was cancelled so I had to catch the next train 30 minutes later.”
“The train at 20.03 was cancelled and the 20.28 was 12 minutes late ie had to wait 45 minutes from arriving for the 20.03.”
“Sat for 20 minutes between stations – no announcements, no staff to tell us what was happening.”

 

bored

 

“Loads of minor delays; feels like no one bothers explaining or apologising any more because it’s just expected.”
“Got to Clapham to find dreaded ‘delayed’. hopped on a late running train to Three Bridges as a train at the platform is worth 2 in the timetable. waited for original train at Three Bridges to find according to boards it was formed of 16 coaches. normally 8. finally home 15 late so what happened to dft promised DR15? always jam tomorrow.”
“My train was arrived at the station 6 minutes late and my connecting train was 8 minutes late. I am not on a temporary timetable but I am bored of my connecting train being late every night.”
“I couldn’t face the train today – yesterday was just too much.”
“Got one of the new carriages today – much less seating and no priority seat signs visible so really awkward to ask for a seat.”
“Connecting train cancelled. No reason given. Twenty minute Bute’s standing on a platform being old it’s delayed then a cancelled announcement given. No reason.”

 

 

frustrated

 

“First train cancelled then next progressively delayed. Stayed on service to lbg as almost no trains for Clapham junction at ECR. Then two further changes required to reach final destination (both mildly delayed) final delay 45 mins.”
“The 1600 Vic-BTN has disappeared for months. The 1550 Vic to BTN is 4 cars, the 1620 is cancelled. That’s 16 carriages cancelled in 50 minutes. You can imagine the overcrowding issues.”
”Trains cancelled and delayed due to track fire.”
“Train delays and cancellations due to track issues Plus standing room only for whole journey.”
“The train was 15 minutes late so I missed my bus connection.”
“The 0815 brighton to Victoria has been permanently cancelled since July. Despite southern being “back on track” this train remains cancelled – the reason given being leaf fall – that’s absouloute bunkum.”

 

 

 

happy

 

“I love half term when many people are away. plenty of seats and close to time. not bad.”
“21:47 Victoria – Hastings/Littlehampton for Hampden Park. Late OK,ish journey.”
“It’s match day and didn’t want to risk the trains. Got the bus instead.”
“Engineering works- comfortable bus, on time, good connections.”
“All was fine.”
“Train on time – no issues Only gripe is that trains are built to maximise passenger count with more standing room – so the leg room is very small and the seats are very hard (there is no design for comfort despite it being a “commuter” train).”
“10 minute delay.”
“Trains were on time.”

 

indifferent

 

“Pretty neutral- it’s a southern train used on a thameslink service meaning there are 24 less seats than a thameslink train, and half empty first class. The don’t adjust anything. It’s late of course.”
“Few minutes late, same old same old.”

 

relaxed

 

“5:12 Hampden Park – Victoria. On time a reasonable journey.”
“No issues. empty train. must be the half term effect.”
“17:57 Victoria – Seaford/Ore for Hampden Park. Wow, so much better than usual – a few minutes late on the way down, home more or less on time.”
“Fine on time.”
“Train was on time and I got a seat. I didn’t have to change train either as it was a fast train to where I wanted to go.”
“The train was only 2 minutes late.”
“The train left on time.”

 

stressed

 

“All trains cancelled. I had to leave work early to get one of the last trains out of London Bridge, then get on another train at East Croydon only for a whole train load of people to be told to alight the train as it was terminating 2 stops earlier than my stop. not knowing if my next train will turn up and if it will be so overcrowded that I will have to wait for another overcrowded train. 3 changes of train in all.”
“The train was 9 minutes late and will miss my bus connection.”
“The train was 7 minutes late. Last night I forgot to complete this survey as my train was cancelled due to power failure and I had to get a bus replacement, so home 30 minutes late.”

 

worried

 

“The train was delayed but I caught a late running previous train which was 4 minutes later than my usual train.”
“The train was 8 minutes late.”

A judge backed Southern commuters’ desire for compensation this week.

One commuter decided to take Southern to court after the reduced timetable hit him hard. In this news story from February, Sergei Cristo was disappointed to have the case dismissed.

However, with help from his local MP, Mr Cristo and his barrister managed to get this decision overturned. Their claim was that the rail service provider had breached its duties under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. There will now be a full hearing in early 2017.

Travel tales

Our policy advisor Dan had another mixed experience to report on Wednesday night.

His train to Horsham was due to leave at 6.03pm (for Portsmouth Harbour). It actually left around twenty minutes later due to a shortage of train crew and, following announcements by the driver, ran fast via Dorking to Horsham arriving around 35 minutes late.

As Dan says, this wasn’t great for those who may have wanted to use the service to get to Clapham, East Croydon, Three Bridges, Crawley, or Littlehaven.

Transport Focus has previously raised a query that, when waiting for delayed trains at Victoria, passengers are often not offered any reassurance that their train is actually making its way to the station. Govia Thameslink had reassured us that this was something that was being worked on.

Dan was pleased to report that on this occasion he heard three or four announcements telling passengers that their intended train was making its way to Victoria and was in x location.

He says: “A small positive to take from an unhappy journey.”

Our Board member Isabel had two on-time journeys when coming into London from Gipsy Hill earlier this week.

Of the first trip, she says: “I arrived just in time for the train – I think the driver saw me, as the doors were already beeping but I was able to board.”

Meanwhile our senior policy advisor Phil, has had reasonable journeys into work for the last couple of days but faced delays on his way home.

On Wednesday he reported: “Every train, northbound and southbound, was running late. No explanation and the gate-line woman hadn’t the slightest idea why.”

Travel diary
This week’s case study is a female commuter aged 35-44 who uses Southern to get between Reigate and London Bridge.

Southern case study 28 Oct

 

From the app

angry

“On time at LB but slow slow slow since. 12 mins late. No explanation. No excuse really.”
”The normal timetable has 4 car train on 1512 and 1542 trains. It’s thameslink dressed as southern. They are always overcrowded, stood all the way to Brighton on 1542 today. You tell GTR, they don’t give a hoot.”

 

bored

 

“17:27 Victoria – Ore. Always best avoided for Hampden Park as it’s not direct, taking ages. Tonight, slow much of the way down. It did make up time – a very quick turnaround at Eastbourne following a speedy journey from Lewes. Home just after 19:20.”
“Unannounced delay 22 mins.”
“16:17 Victoria – Eastbourne/Littlehampton, for Hampden Park. Laconic train crew safely ensconced in front and rear cabs not giving a stuff. Late. No explanation. Passengers standing most of way. No effort to mitigate overcrowding. A rubbish journey.”
“13:47 Victoria – Ore/Littlehampton, for Hampden Park: announcements at Victoria, Ore portion cancelled saying wait for the 14:17 14:17 for Eastbourne. Littlehampton portion cancelled pulling into Haywards Heath. Late into Hampden Park, Hastings passengers only just making connection. Postscript. Checking timetable I find 13:47 did actually run to Eastbourne. – No doubt delay repay will deny all knowledge of Govia telling passengers it wasn’t running.”

 

 

frustrated

 

“Delay. Change at east Croydon. Chaos. No information. Late.”
“The trains were cancelled. So now I’m going to be an hour late to work. At the moment I end up getting the second train of the day so that if it’s cancelled I have time but you can’t do that every day because it’s exhausting. Today I tried to get the 06:49, it and several further trains are cancelled.”
“I have a meeting which would work well with the 0815 brighton to Victoria. This is permanently cancelled. This means leaving early. Although my journey is extended by 30 minutes, I can claim nothing as I am not “delayed” although I have to leave 45 mins earlier. Nothing in delay system covers this. Govia wins.”
“Trains cancelled today due to “temporary shortage of traincrew” Idiots at east Croydon loading 4 car brighton train and 12 car appears and leaves empty. OBS didn’t declassify train or in fact do anything. Twitter team patronizing and plain rude. 47 mins standing – horrible horrible journey.”

 

 

 

happy

 

“Train on time but seating is not at all comfortable (new trains seem to be built to accommodate more standing room at expense of comfort – very little leg room).”
“6:58 Hampden Park – Victoria. Uneventful journey, arriving on time.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“On time.”
“The train left Brighton on time. This train is reasonably reliable – although as usual once passing Croydon the journey slowed to a crawl and we were 10 mins late.”

 

relaxed

 

“On time, not too busy being half term. some delays around Gatwick.”
“6:58 Hampden Park – Victoria, very slight delays on the way up, in the final leg, but arrived on time.”
“Only 4 minutes late.”
“Fine, all on time.”
“Train on time.”

worried

 

“All was fine.”
“Everything delayed. although talk of delay repay 15 it is jam tomorrow as can’t claim it yet.”

 

Southern has announced the return of 63 more services from Monday.

This includes the full West London Line timetable and services for destinations including Hove, Bognor, Barnham and Worthing.

The final 46 services between Brighton and Southampton and Hastings and Ashford will return a week later, on Monday 31 October.

Meanwhile the RMT union has called off the strike planned for 3 -5 November following a request by the British Legion, because it is close to Remembrance Day.

Travel tales
This week our case study is of a male commuter, aged 45-54, who travels to and from work, between Brighton and London Bridge, with Thameslink.

Southern diary 20 Oct

From the app

angry

“There is a strike and thameslink STILL can’t provide drivers to operate what is left. The 0530 was cancelled – this is just getting boring now – GTR need to go.”

 

 

bored

“Slow slow slow.”
“There should be a head on desk icon. Hideous journey once again. Departed late, arrived late. We can’t get all the passengers on. My face was actually pressed against the door window because there was a woman with a bike, complete with basket, stopping people from using the aisle for standing. Why do they still allow bike on that are not in the bike carriage? Just miserable and I have to pay through the nose for the privilege. £100 a month to travel six miles.”

happy

“Train on time with a seat.”

 

 

 

 

indifferent

“Due to the RMT strike I accepted a lift home from a work colleague to be sure to get home on time.”
“Late again. Only 5 minutes but it’s not a great start to a busy day.”

 

 

To read updates from previous days, click here.

From our web form Katherine told us about her journey from Rye to St Pancras International. She said:

“I decided to work from home today. Hourly buses had been laid on but its double the train time and when you take into account the variability of road conditions inevitably leads to missed connections onwards to London. I will have to attempt the journey tomorrow, my work is accommodating but due to the amount of WFH days I’ve had to take, loosing patience. The Marsh Link from Rye is still 50 per cent down on trains at peak times leaving crowded conditions on the trains. Again the bus replacement that misses the London connection is not a viable replacement.

“This situation is causing unnecessary stress and will inevitably lead to me having to leave my London job. Judging by the commuter chatter on the trains – I am not the only one feeling this way.”

Richard, who travels from Swanwick to East Croydon, said:

“Since the 11th July 2016 the 0627 hours train from Swanwick to Brighton has be cancelled. I used this train to change at Havant onto a train to East Croydon which is a fast service between Barnham and Horsham.

“Because of the cancellation of the 0627 I am forced to catch the 0604 hours Swanwick to London Bridge service which stops at almost every station between Swanwick and Three Bridges (it only misses Ford and Amberley). This is an appalling service the onboard announcements are incessant as soon as you have left one station the announcements start again because of the number of stations, past Barnham even though the number of stations has decreased the stations have short platforms and the length of the announcements increases.

“I am one of the fortunate ones on that I am able to get to work on time even if the length of my travelling day has increased for others who travel between Swanwick and Brighton they either have understanding employers or are driving daily to Havant to pick up direct services.”

From the app

angry

“This was a suicide not southern fault.”

“Strike day, no seats, some travellers had to shove their way on the trains some never made it in. Train late departing and even later arriving. The conductor who seems to be in an ivory tower kept announcing for us to move down the carriage to let people on. What did he think we were doing? Those several announcements, angered people the most.”

bored

“16:47 Victoria to Hampden Park cancelled at Victoria. No info. Caught first train going south. Fun packed journey to Haywards Heath to pick up an impromptu ‘special’ stopper heading for Eastbourne. Home 19:01.”

“Friday night’s Govia fun night. The 17:57 Victoria – Seaford/Ore party train; left  on time, arrived Hampden Park as usual late -12 minutes late.”

“Delays with no communication.”

frustrated

“Delays.”

“Despite their being a bus service – buying the cheapest ticket was difficult as southern machines are set up to sell the most expensive ticket. The super advance thameslink to London was almost impossible to find. Mind you they do this all the time to fox people into paying more.”

happy

“Easy, quick, minimal wait.”

“On time and a seat.”

indifferent

“Delays.”

“Pelted down the stairs as fast as poss because the announcement said train was at the platform. It wasn’t, in fact a different train was so I nearly got the wrong one.”

relaxed

“Seat on train.”

“6:58 Hampden Park to Victoria left on time arrived 3 minutes late. Overall not bad considering a couple of extra slots were thrown in, to make up for an earlier cancelled train.”

stressed

“It’s a strike day, but thameslink are not on strike and yet there is no driver for the 0530 from Brighton.”

This week passengers yet again suffered as a result of the ongoing strike and more disruption is on the cards for:
• Thursday 3 November to Saturday 5 November
• Tuesday 22 November and Wednesday 23 November
• Tuesday 6 December to Thursday 8 December.

Passengers are telling us that they are totally fed up with how long this disruption is lasting. We urge all parties to bring this dispute to an end.

Meanwhile one car hire company is using the strike as a marketing opportunity.14 Oct tweet car hire

What do you think of London Bridge?

It is six weeks since more than half of the new London Bridge station opened. We gave some constructive feedback to Network Rail at the time.

As usual with a project of this size, Network Rail will carry out a review a few weeks after opening. We’ll be there at this review next Tuesday – we would really like to hear from passengers who are now using the new part of the station, to feed into what we say. Please let us know your experiences both good and bad.

Delay repay changes
Earlier this week the Government announced that Southern will be the first operator to change to a 15-minute trigger for Delay Repay – see the story and our response.

We had an email from an app user responding to the announcement:

“All well and good but I get back on average £3.50 for my trains being cancelled and my journey being delayed by up to an hour. This is on a monthly season ticket of £281. These delays have already cost me a verbal warning for lateness at work with possible further disciplinary action that could result in my dismissal.”

Another correspondent notes:
“Horsham station appears to be regularly failing to meet its published opening hours. It was shut again at 4pm this afternoon with no advice about when it would next be open to those finding the blinds pulled down. Pretty annoying if you want to exchange delay repay vouchers.”

However our policy advisor Dan had a good journey experience yesterday. He caught one of two half-hourly services up to Three Bridges at 7.20am and during the journey, a member of staff told passengers what platforms the connecting services would be run from. In the case of his train, it was being held until that train arrived.

On boarding the second train Dan took advantage of a declassified First Class seat and relaxed for the remainder of his journey.

But he adds: “However having read accounts of the previous two days, and looked at the faces of fellow passengers boarding at stations such as Redhill and East Croydon, my experience today clearly does not reflect the general mood and state of mind of fellow commuters who are being worn down by the ongoing poor performance – much of which is not solely attributable to the industrial dispute.”

Travel diary
This week we follow a male commuter, aged 35-44, who travels to/from East Grinstead and London Victoria with Southern.

southern diary 14 oct

From the app

angry

 

“No trains to Victoria, 1st train out is half hour later, every seat taken before leaves east grinstead, resembles a tube 10 mins later.”
“Train strikes. Train delays. Packed train.”
“Every night I rush from work and race to the station to get one of the 2 trains an hour that goes to my station. it leaves on time ish. yet again 20 mins late to my destination. every week 1 hour 40 minutes of my time wasted on the train on the journey home alone.”
“My train was cancelled again. No alternative was put in place. I had to buy an extra ticket for the Underground to get to work today and I was late.”
“They didn’t plan to run my train today because of strikes, but when I got to the station to get a different train they were all cancelled anyway because of overrunning engineering works in Balcombe. The guy inside the station told me to go outside and get a bus, then the guy by the busses said the last bus left already and now I need to go back and get a train. I gave up and went home.”
“Strike. engineering works over running. shambolic comms. 3 hours to do 21 miles. rammed in carriages. East Croydon on lock down Department for Transport and Regulatory remind me what are you doing about this?”
“Stood for entire rail journey home.”
“I wanted to catch the 0722 to Blackfriars but those idiots at GTR cancelled it because YET ANOTHER new train had “broken down” – can’t they do anything right?”
“Late again.”

bored

 

 

“Train strikes.”
“Crammed in like sardines but with less dignity.”
“3rd day of arriving late for work due to the first train being 7:49. I’m usually on 7:15. Late running too.”
“Only 2 trains running from Edenbridge Town due to strikes and first one not till 8.41 so making me late yet again!”
“Late running, really crowded, not fun.”
“Train was delayed.”
“7:14 strike replacement service Hampden Park for Victoria via Brighton. Caught it because others had suggested Govia strike services had been OK. WRONG. What a pile of crap that journey was. Full and standing Hampden Park. Just 8 carriages replacing 3 trains which would have run by that time of day. By Lewes seriously overcrowded. Arrived Brighton on time to crowds and cancellations. Got relatively lucky and was able to board overcrowded but late running Brighton to Victoria. 2 hours 10 minutes after starting my journey arrived Victoria.”
“Another strike day. up early didn’t get to see my son. changing trains and a longer walk at each end. Tired of the strike. Exhausted.”
“20:20 Victoria to Brighton for Hampden Park. Just 8 coaches standing until Croydon, late from Victoria late arriving. Made connection but could have done without hassle.”

frustrated

 

“Strike day so had to get lift to oxted only for 2 trains to be cancelled so had to wait 1 hour!!!”
“Several consecutive trains cancelled or delayed due to strikes.”
“Train strikes. Delayed trains.”
“Standing room only on a very cramped train.”
“Today was such an awful stressful experience. We are jammed into the trains. Bikes are allowed on which Is crazy for the first train of the day on strike day. People were refused in it was so busy. It stings that this is day one of 14 and I had to renew my monthly ticket. 8 carriages of not a spare square inch of angry people who can’t get in or off at their stop.”
“Absolute chaos this morning with overrunning engineering works.”

happy

“Train on time.”
“Got a seat, but it ran late.”
“Train was on time and I got a seat.”
“Train on time and seating available.”
“All was fine.”
“All was well.”

 

indifferent

 

 

“So exhausted after the commute this morning with canx strikes and over running engineering works. train ran on time and I got a seat. a rare occurrence.”
“Got home on time and got a seat.”
“Fine, on time.”
“Busy train.”
“My train this morning was delayed about 15 minutes but the app won’t let me write an entry for it now that it is the evening. My evening train was also delayed by more than 5 minutes.”
”Got a seat, train was on time.”

relaxed

 

“5:12 Hampden Park to Victoria. Lovely. A seat. On time. And, a journey taking just 80 minutes rather than the 2 hours + crap of the last few days.”

 

 

stressed

 

“No trains from Victoria so have to go via London bridge, half the capacity twice the people. horrible journey.”
“General lateness.”
“Late as usual.”
“I didn’t bother again – I won’t travel on strike days – It’s a pathetic service and overcrowded.”

worried

 

“Not knowing if the train will be running due to the strike.”

 

 

Tomorrow is the start of a three-day strike on Southern. We advise all passengers to check before travelling. We’ve also kept up the pressure on the operator to make sure passengers are kept informed.

Let us know via the app or Twitter (#passengervoice) how you get on.

 

Travel tales

From the app

 

bored

 

“Delays.”

 

 

 

 

 

indifferent

 

“Good journey with a seat although train was late. The train I should have got went straight through the station without stopping and there was no announcement to explain this. Thankfully another train followed a few minutes.”
“Doors a bit kooky and usual Redhill moment of whether or not it has staff to go to Earlswood. yay made it though.”
“No trains at all all weekend.”
“Normal journey.”
“Arrived a few minutes late this morning, otherwise uneventful.”

 

stressed

 

“Arrived at Victoria earlier than expected but final journey delayed due to late arrival of connection.”

 

Once again, talks have broken down between Southern and the RMT union, meaning commuters face more strikes.

Services will be affected on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

We discussed the upcoming strikes with Thameslink boss Dyan Crowther this week. She confirmed that the operator is putting in enhanced bus replacement and staffing to help passengers. Let us know via the app or Twitter (#passengervoice) how you get on.

Transport Focus continues to work with the ‘hit squad’ set up to tackle Southern’s performance. Although not a formal member, we will keep providing your feedback and other data from our National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS).

We will have extra NRPS surveys carried out on Southern to boost the detailed feedback we can provide.

Meanwhile the commuter group trying to raise enough funding for a judicial review of the Government’s handling of Southern has succeeded. The Association of British Commuters met its £25,000 target and will now be taking legal advice and specialist counsel.

Travel tales

This week’s case study is a female commuter, aged 55-64, who travels between Nutfield and London Victoria with Southern.

7 Oct travel diary

From the app

angry

“All streatham trains cancelled (found out from staff – online info said delayed). Had to go via another route. Set off early – ended up being late.”

“18.06 Uckfield cancelled due to fault on the train. Had to stand at LB for an hour waiting for the next one as the service is so diabolical we only have one train an hour!!! Will now get home an hour late cold and hungry but too late to eat!”

“The 1530 gatwick express was cancelled. The southern trains are too short/full. 1600 is permanently cancelled and yet there is an unfair premium for using gatwick express which hardly runs.”

“17:33 train from East Croydon was cancelled and I had to stand for most of the journey home.”

bored

“Running late, waiting for a late running train to go in front of us.”

“Bored with persistent delays even if they’re only small ones.”

“Always a pleasure travelling on Eastbourne & Hastings lines, must be too for Littlehampton. 2 trains an hour. Often cancelled. Often overcrowded. Always,  knowing when push comes to shove Govia will dump an extra 5 to 10 minutes on a traveling day.  Today’s 16:17 Victoria – Hampden Park, bit late into Victoria platform, quick turnaround by crew, left on time. More or less on time Gatwick. 5 minutes late Haywards Heath. Dumped and delayed behind Brighton trains.  Heroic efforts by crew from Haywards Heath to try to make up time to Hampden Park. They didn’t quite succeed. At least arrangements made to hold Hastings connection.  Home late again. Thank you Govia control and timetablers.”

“Journey is slow. Long wait at Tulse hill.”

“How can 21 miles on a train take 50 minutes? sigh. arrived 5 mins or do late. plus again this morning no staff at Earlswood station. neglected station!”

“Fine, ran a bit late and was rammed full.”

“Delays.”

frustrated

“The 1600 vic – Btn is permanently cancelled. The alternative southern trains before and after are 4/8 car formed and therefore overcrowded. I have to travel via London Bridge to have a reasonable journey.”

“Late running by the time we get to East Croydon. after sitting at Redhill we are told relief driver not there. I never get home on time. Fed up. walk from Redhill. paid to Earlswood. so frustrating.”

“Missed connection again, no personal life is possible, everything planned gets canned due to not getting home in time.”

“General slowness.”

“The trains were cancelled due to reported fires on the line. It took nearly half an hour for this to be communicated. All the passengers left the station. All buses were crammed. I had a long journey involving the bus and tube. It resulted in a huge delay in my overall journey to work, incurred additional cost and was extremely stressful.”

happy

“All was fine.”

“On time, heard a guard, still not seen one?”

“On time, not that crowded, guard keeping everyone on board informed by PA, assume he was on board as still not seen one!!”

“Made connection and only slightly late.”

“What a pleasure. 17:57 Victoria Eastbourne/Seaford. Left on time. And, more or less on time all the way to Hampden Park. Driver and guard making up minutes when they could. Signallers obliging with a clear route – Perfect home on time!”

“Train was waiting at the platform, left on time and wasn’t too busy.”

“All was fine.”

“Same as usual journey.”

indifferent

“I would have taken 0815 gatwick express to Victoria but it’s been cancelled the last three months or so. I can’t claim delay repay as I have to leave early, not later. That means I am inconvenienced by 40 minutes and govia are not obliged to pay anything.”

“Was on time but very crowded. No sign of a guard. still not sure they exist.”

“Usual really an hour to go 21 miles … sigh.”

“It’s a minor thing but I nearly missed watching the space station go over with my son as the train was approx 8mins late. no explanation at all except a red signal making us 2 mins late leaving LBG.”

“It takes too long. always a few mins late. tedious.”

“Station board @Earlswood said only running to Redhill. App said to London Bridge …. luckily it ran to LBG…..”

“Train ran on time.”

“It was overcrowded, people taking seats for cases and refusing to move them.”

relaxed

“On time.”

“Discovering the rear coach of all new Thameslink train have a declassified first class was a result.”

“Left earlier than normal and all was fine.”

“Had a seat. Driver injected some fun into the journey with announcement about weeds at herne hill.”

“On time.”

“All services on time. Seats available.”

“On time no delay. still didn’t see a guard though, do they exist??”

“5:12 Hampden Park – Victoria, arrived on time so content.”

stressed

“7.36 from Edenbridge Town to LB cancelled. 8.10 delayed so will be 40 mins late for work!!”

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“The 0815 gatwick express doesn’t run and there is an hour gap in morning peak.”

To read updates from previous days, click here.

A social media campaign by Southern went awry today, as hundreds of passengers used its #southernbackontrack message, aimed at the RMT union, to criticise the company instead.

3 Oct Tweet fromSn

The operator had taken out a double page ad in the Metro encouraging disgruntled commuters to tweet the RMT union about the impact of the strikes. There were some supportive tweets – but mostly people took the opportunity to vent their general displeasure with current performance. Even the Labour leader weighed in.

3 Oct Tweet 5

 

 

 

3 Oct Tweet 1

3 Oct Tweet 3 3 Oct Tweet 4 3 Oct Tweet 2

Tweets mentioning the operator jumped from an average of around 150, to over 1200 in a day.

 

Travel tales

Over the weekend we heard from Kate S via our web form. Kate travels between Victoria and Billingshurst. Like many working parents, Kate is finding the train issues even more concerning when it means her children may be affected.

“Two hourly trains in a row were cancelled from the 19.32 onwards, and the third we all boarded was then designated a ‘fast train’ and would not be stopping at our stop. It’s beyond ridiculous now and while you might offer to reimburse the train ticket costs, no one is paying for the hours and hours of extra childcare this is costing or stress when we don’t know if anyone will still be available to look after children because we can’t get home and the child minder has to leave.”

Meanwhile this morning our senior policy advisor Phil experienced a number of delays – all without explanation or apology.

From the app

angry

 

“New Thameslink trains are appalling.”
“How can they get it so wrong everyday. Train cancelled after sitting on it 10 minutes past departure time as no conductor. Then changed at Haywards Heath for Eastbourne service which was diverted to Brighton, no reason and then delayed at a very stop. Missed an event I had been waiting to attend for weeks, all down to pathetic disputed and mid management.”
“Train cancelled, no explanation.”
“Half hour delay then turfed off …. station staff surly and rude ‘:”taxis called” 1 turned up to ferry 200 people because driver won’t do 10.mins over time just non sensical and staff do not care.”
“Because of southern tweet about strikes.”
“Late into London, and the most uncomfortable train I have ever ridden on, and it’s brand new!!!Does anyone who designs these trains actually ride them for an hour and a half?”

 

bored

 

“Had to leave work early as my usual train was late running. That usually spells issues especially when all lines gave delays.”
“Was late, no information given, didn’t see a guard.”
“Absolutely sh!t quality of journey. 17:57 Victoria – Eastbourne & Seaford. Very crowded. 2 minutes late leaving, by Haywards Heath 8 minutes. Dawdled to Lewes without a F. care in the world. Lewes announcement train to be cancelled at Eastbourne. Left Lewes 14 minutes late having thoroughly screwed time allowed in the timetable to make up time, very deliberately held back. If to Lewes bad, rest of journey worse! really couldn’t be arsed pace. Hampden Park home 16 minutes late. No apologises or explanation throughout. complete F*(kers.”
“Short formation, 5:12 Hampden Park to Victoria. As this is an early train out of the depot, and they won’t just have had one unit in the sidings, assume they plan to cancel a few trains today, as they won’t now have the stock for later. Needless to say overcrowded, no attempts to relieve that overcrowding or make apologies.”
“Such a miserable journey, since they’ve taken the 7:46 train off, I can barely get on the train with my face pressed against the trains doors.”
“Rdh to Vic cancelled and had to wait for next – cold ! 7.04ti Vic was late, over crowded , tetchy.”
“Late leaving EGR due to “non availability of training crew on inbound service”. ran fast to Oxted to make up time.”

 

frustrated

 

“Two trains cancelled from Southampton to Brighton so caught train to Fratton where connecting train there, to Brighton, was also cancelled.”

 

 

happy

“Just fits my day and I enjoy it.”

“Got to redhill in 27 mins. Train comfy. Got south eastern – hence the ease.”

“Train felt like it was on time.”

 

indifferent

 

“Left on time. arrived 8 mins late bur not horrendous.”

“Just normal.”

“Running a few mins late, no reason given.”

 

relaxed

“It was comfortable but a bit slow.”

“Train on time.”

“I had a seat and I wasn’t in a hurry to get into work.”

 

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“Victoria service was cancelled due to “non availability of coaches” so had to travel on the later London bridge train, which was also late.”

We have reviewed almost 900 journeys logged on our travel diary app over the last few months. These are logged by people choosing to take part, so are not weighted to be fully representative – however they give a general sense of commuters’ experience.

Worryingly, a large proportion of people experiencing delays still didn’t get any information on why. Of those who did, only a very few were given an idea of how long the delay would be. We had been working with Govia Thameslink on this issue and will continue to push for better provision and staff to be better-equipped to help passengers out on the spot.

We also asked all those who use our app, if they were delayed, whether they had claimed Delay Repay or not.

Here are some of the responses:

“I claimed every refund last year, this year I haven’t because of the train fiasco – it has been so tiring and stressful the last thing I want to do when I get home late is login to relive the journey/think about the trains to claim my refund. I know I should because I am entitled but I just can’t put myself through it.”

“Not delayed enough today. However have stopped claiming as too much trouble for approx £2. Refund only on portion of ticket ELD to Coulsdon South as have travel card season ticket.”

“Can’t bear to think about the trains once home to login to claim. I just want to get on with my family life once home.”

“I’m dyslexic which makes all form filling a pain – The Southern form is not too great.  My preferred method would be to use the app via the phone but this is not possible. Finally there’s more form filling, to get the money, in the event you do get a voucher. It’s a pain.”

Travel tales

Our Board member Isabel had a 14-minute delay to her mid-day service into Victoria from Gipsy Hill on Monday, but her return journey was fine, though this was later in the evening, between 8 and 9pm. The journey from Sydenham Hill into City Thameslink next day was delayed by three minutes and again fine on the way back.

From the webform

Anthony C, who travels into London from Reigate:

“This morning Southern didn’t run a service from Reigate for more than two hours – 06:20 to 08:25. Yet again I walked to Redhill to get on a train. It’s a 30 minute journey I know well having walked from Redhill to my home quite a few times in the past month.

“This is beyond a joke – I can no longer tell the difference between a strike day and a day when ‘normal’ service is supposedly operating. And to think, as of last Monday trains to my station apparently returned to a standard timetable.

“Southern Rail is not fit to run trains – nationalise it and lock up the people in charge for theft. I pay for a service that simply doesn’t exist.”

Case study

This week’s travel diary is of a Southern commuter aged 35-44. Her commute to work is between Carshalton and Euston on Southern services.

Diary app - Journey Week

 

From the app

angry

 

 

“Missed connection for no apparent reason other than train late into Haywards Heath.”

 

 

bored

 

“Late, no reason given.”

“It was late again and the air conditioning wasn’t working again.”

“The train was delayed due to a train breakdown blocking the line. No clarity on when it would arrive. When it did it was packed – really unpleasant journey home.”

“20:17 Victoria – Eastbourne. Delayed 22 minutes at Haywards Heath. Whilst they chucked everyone one off the Littlehampton portion, to send it on empty.  Haywards Heath – Polegate driver heroically made up 4 minutes time. Southern then p!ssed it all way. 4 minutes from Willingdon junction to Hampden Park. 18 minutes late home.”

“5:47 from Hampden Park – London Bridge, for changes at Haywards Heath and Croydon for Victoria. 5:47 bloody slow and late arriving Haywards Heath. No explanation or apology. Fortunately not an issue as made connections and arrived on time.”

frustrated

 

“All trains cancelled from Streatham common.”

“I’m just grateful it wasn’t delayed or cancelled again.”

 

 

happy

“Well for once this week my train was on time. Shame it can’t be said for the earlier part of the week with 3 cancelled trains in 2 days and a delay of 40 minutes at London Bridge one evening trying to get home.”

“Full and standing train.”

“Train on time.”

“Train left my station on time and arrived on time ….. that beverage happens wow got to work on time huzzah!

indifferent

 

“Late as is usually the case.”

 

 

 

relaxed

“On time and seat available.”

“On time – long wait forcing toon but then that was always the case.”

“Got a later train as worked late. Seems to be on time. Doesn’t go to my station though. Not sure why.”

A group of working mothers has got together to campaign for service improvements and better compensation on Thameslink commuter routes. We have made contact with the group – found here on facebook – and will be arranging a meeting soon.

Travel tales

Our senior policy advisor, Phil, had an uneventful journey yesterday but this morning had a few shorter delays with no explanations given.

 

From the app

angry

“1702 from Vic was short formed at 4 coaches so unable to board at Clapham. staff there didn’t acknowledge or maybe suggest catching an earlier train to say Croydon as many get off there. so already 30 late and now all southbound trains further delayed. 45 late home.”

“Delayed trains then cancelled 3 stops before my stop as no guard when train split. No warning, no preparing alternate options. Absolutely useless!!!”

“All trains to Eastbourne cancelled, had to divert to Brighton and get lift home. No communication or information at all, diabolical yet again.”

“The train I planned to catch at 11.36 was cancelled so I had to rush to catch an earlier train.”

“Train over 30 mins late so had to make alternative arrangements.”

“The train was formed of only 5 carriages so it was very overcrowded. I was able to get a seat, but lots of people were standing the whole way.  It also arrived 6 minutes late, enough to make me late for work, but not enough to be allowed to claim on Delay Repay.”

“8.59 was cancelled”

bored

 

“Very busy, had to stand.”

“Train left on time, one afterwards was cancelled. Train has crawled most of the way, currently 12 mins late – not enough for delay repay but still annoying as will miss my fitness class tonight. Sigh.”

“Train was delayed and no information.”

“Branch train late, waited 20 mins. Therefore missed London train, got a stopping train, had to change at e Croydon. Next London Bridge bound train only five coaches- so am now late and standing.”

“Late home due to signal problem. (That will be the ‘award’ winning signals, just renewed by DfT and Network rail !)  Caught the 18:08 to Caterham from Victoria in order to pick up the London Bridge – Eastbourne from East Croydon. The Caterham arrived Croydon on time, ish. The London Bridge arrived as good as dam it on time, but was delayed leaving. Train crowded, no seats. Ran intermittently slow down, as we caught up with and were delayed by slow moving Brighton line trains blocking our progress. We made up some time but were then cancelled and thrown off at Haywards Heath. No arrangements in place for Hampden Park bound passengers. Told to go to Brighton. Fun packed, crowded journey from there. Caught 19:53 which should have stopped at Hampden Park and most stations in between. It didn’t. Guard sent passengers off at Lewes to catch train behind it. Arrived home 20:34, 50 plus minutes late.”

frustrated

“Man behind me snoring and man opposite had extreme sound leakage from headphones.”

 

 

 

happy

 

“Almost on time.”

“On time and could sit down.”

“Caught the direct Vic to Nuf train for the first time in weeks and it is less than 5 mins late.  I actually almost have what I pay for!”

“Train ran on time  Usual gripe though that new trains appear to have been built with increased standing room in mind at the expense of leg room and comfort.”

 

indifferent

 

“Caught the 17:09 to Caterham to pick up the London Bridge down to Eastbourne, from East Croydon. Left on time, arrived 8 minutes late. At East Croydon, London Bridge – Eastbourne 5 minutes late also. Crowded.  Good journey from Croydon to Hampden Park, ish. Exceptional driver who really tried hard to make up time whenever he/she could! But still arrived 12 minutes late home. Not impressed with the guards though. Both mute. No explanation or apologises.”

“The train was on time, but overcrowded as usual.”

“Usual train journey.”

“Train was on time, but the air conditioning was broken again and it was overcrowded again.”

“I do it everyday.”

“Late arriving.”

“Ran on time but absolutely rammed as usual.”

“Just another day.”

 

relaxed

 

“On time.”

 

 

 

stressed

 

“Trains delayed due to trespassers on the track.”

“The 20.42 was shown as on time but there was no platform showing for it when I got to the station. The train then disappeared from the CIS just as it’s departure time came and there were no announcements. A lot of people were very cross not knowing what was going on. After10 minutes the train reappeared on the CIS and left over 10 minutes late.”

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

 

“Queue out of station door – worried I was going to miss train til someone said a gate was broken and they opened a gate to wave paper ticket holders through. Late by a couple of mins, short formed with no warning, same s*** different day.”

Changes at the top – Nick Brown (formerly of TfL) is the new chief operating officer at Govia Thameslink Railway.

Nick will start work in November. There were a number of other management changes announced today – click here to read more.

A commuter group campaign to raise funds for a legal challenge about Southern reports that it is more than two thirds of the way there.

The Association of British Commuters has raised almost £18,000 towards a target of £25,000 to seek a judicial review.

The group is also planning to stage a protest at Victoria station on Thursday.

Travel tales

We had an emotional email from one commuter today:

“Monday morning… revised timetable, no direct trains between 07:45 and 08:45 to Victoria.

“07:44 cancelled due to lack of train crew.

“I am actually at the point of tears…”

Our policy advisor Dan shares his experience after “what would have been a minor life/commuting victory (a rare early home time), Govia Thameslink managed to snatch a loss.”

He explained that he got back to Horsham on an earlier train than usual, deciding to get a coffee and wait to give his wife a lift as she would be arriving on their regular train.

However her Thameslink service got stuck north of Gatwick. Dan notes that the driver was quick to alert passengers to the fact the train was stuck at a red signal – but had also said that, despite several attempts, the signaller was not responding to his calls.

Having eventually reached Three Bridges, and missed the intended connection, Dan’s wife then had to wait for a delayed Southern train to Horsham (a Bognor train), the Customer Information screens weren’t working and the platform staff didn’t really know what was happening.

Dan adds: “Having had months of delays all of this is nothing new, but nerves are fraying and passengers (including my wife and I) are getting more and more stressed by the never-ending problems.”

Following another delayed journey the next day, Dan went into the station to exchange his Delay Repay vouchers for cash, having built up £74 worth after a couple of months. However, a previous customer had just been in with £340 worth.

Dan says: “It does take some determination to get everything you are due though. Last night, having been delayed we got home to find my wife had been sent some compensation for the strike days in August. In the letters received one strike day paid out £22.80, whilst the second (for the following day) only paid £2.80 – you can guess what had happened. So, she rang customer services and they duly acknowledged that there had been an error and would send out the difference as soon as possible. Whilst she was on the phone she happened to ask what had happened to a claim for a journey before the strike days. The staff apologised and said there appeared to be a glitch in the system that meant it wasn’t being processed.

“I know all about being stuck in limbo, I’m a commuter after all.”

 

From the app

angry

 

“Held up on the journey with no info and concerned I wouldn’t make my connection. thankfully I did, connecting train arrived late as well.”

“Train over 30 mins late so had to make alternative arrangements.”

“The train was formed of only 5 carriages so it was very overcrowded. I was able to get a seat, but lots of people were standing the whole way.  It also arrived 6 minutes late, enough to make me late for work, but not enough to be allowed to claim on Delay Repay.”

“8.59 was cancelled”

 

bored

 

“Cancelled connection so very late; second delay repay claim today – cancelled connection thus morning too.”

 

 

happy

 

“Easy. Trains arrived and I was on time and I got a seat.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“17:57 Victoria train, Seaford & Ore. More or less on time by Haywards Heath.   19:08 arrived lewes tunnel.  Arrived 50 yards and 2 minutes later Lewes station, 19:10 or thereabouts. 5 dull minutes later left, admittedly on time. The rest of the way at a kind of I cant be arsed pace. Arrived Hampden Park 2 minutes late.”

 

relaxed

 

 

“Seat available, no delays.”
“Went home early. Train on time.”

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

 

“Slightly late on departure but otherwise ok.”

 

 

Yesterday another wave of strikes was announced for Southern services. We issued a response:

“As ever, it is passengers that suffer in the event of strikes. We are disappointed that the two parties have still not resolved their differences. They need to get back round the table and bring services back to normal as soon as possible.”

We also renewed our plea for people to download the travel diary app. If you’re one of those taking part, thank you! And please keep the entries coming – anyone who logs 25 between 19 September and 19 October will be entered into a £100 prize draw.

Meanwhile we met Govia Thameslink about the return of the full timetable.

The full timetable on the Seaford – Brighton route is back from Monday (26 September). This will mean the return of half-hourly train services for passengers whose services have been mostly replaced by buses since a temporary reduced weekday service was introduced on 11 July.

It has also confirmed its intention that the full timetable will be back to normal within the next few weeks. The final 100 or so trains on Gatwick Express, Hastings to Rye and Brighton to Southampton will complete the phased reinstatement of services.

We are attending a Southern/Gatwick Express forum on Friday 14 October and will update afterwards.

Travel tales

This week’s case study is from a female commuter aged 35-44. She uses Southern to travel between London Road Brighton and London Bridge.

case study 23 Sept

From our webform (see below)

Aimee travels between London Victoria and Brighton.

She said:
“Southern had a big song and dance about how they were reinstating the full timetable and yet straight away trains are being delayed and cancelled again at short notice due to “lack of available train crew”
Why jump the gun and do that if you can’t actually fulfill your promise?! Pat on the back…..”

Earlier this month we heard from Shelley and Andrew.

Shelley travels between Bexhill and Hastings, and said:

“17.03 train cancelled due to “lack of staff”. So I had to wait for the 17.24. Which was due to arrive at 17.27. It’s not much, and if it was a rarity, I wouldn’t mind. But, this follows 2 days of rail strike and cancelleation of service. It’s frustrating as it feels like there is no resolution in sight and that Southern are not making any efforts to ensure that they have enough staff to run a service. It is also a little annoying that it was just under the threshold to claim compensation.”

Andrew travels between London Bridge and Brighton. He said:

“Went to get the 12:42 Thameslink from LBG with Thameslink only tickets. The train arrived in Southern livery (but we know Southern is part of GTR). Inbound train is late.

“Announcement onboard, ” this is a Southern service to Brighton”. Platform indicators don’t display TOC running the service unlike the main boards. Asked 2 staff on the platform, first said Southern service, second confirmed Thameslink as the doors closed. Had to wait 30 minutes for next service. If GTR are going to swap stock they should ensure drivers / crew override the auto announcements.”

From the app

angry

 

“Southwest train out of Waterloo was slow running and I almost missed my connection at Clapham Junction.”

 

 

bored

 

“Train late and overcrowded – as usual!”

“I made a later journey so network was quieter than usual. interesting to note that the scheduled journey time is so padded that this particular train ran slowly and was held at various points for 3-5 mins in order to keep to time.”

“Normal timetable. 20 minute wait on the platform between branch train coming in and London train leaving.”

frustrated

 

“Train at Clapham announced as delayed.  advised to get cattle truck to East Croydon.  This then waited outside EC for 10 mins.  We were so packed I could not move my arms or stay straight.   At east Croydon the train I should have caught came in making the above u necessary.   This train got to three bridges where it was announced after Horsham it would skip my stop.  I had to get off at Horsham and change again.  three changes and a cattle truck.”

“Train removed from journey planners. Twitter and NRE said cancelled (starting Horsham). checked at Clapham and staff said cancelled so caught a train to Croydon only to find train was running but all to Bognor. NRE said no Southampton portion but at Horsham it was waiting and left first. platform CIS said our train on plat 3 was altered to depart from 4. all completely maddening.”

 

happy

 

“On time (with longer journey time).”

“It was on time.”

“Train on time, I could get on it and I had a seat.”

indifferent

 

“Delayed for no apparent reason. Almost late for nursery pick up.”

“Normal journey.”

“Caught the 15:47 from Victoria, arrived Hampden Park just under 2 minutes late. A crowded train people standing most of the journey. A rough ride too. But at Eastbourne it turnaround and swapped crew relatively quickly, helping to  make up some of the time lost on the way down. Arrived as close to on time as you get so content.”

relaxed

 

 

“All fine.”

 

 

stressed

 

“Train was delayed for no particular reason.”

“Trying to get home for a meeting at my children’s school and can’t trust Southern to get me home in time is stressful. They’re incapable of offering any reassurance.”

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

 

“Left on time but delayed en route. Currently running about 10 mins late. Hoping to make it back in time to get a lift home from the station!”

Passengers will continue to be frustrated that despite the removal of some services in the temporary timetable performance across the different Thameslink routes has continued to be poor.

As you will see from the daily performance figures (see our chart at the bottom of this page) that we take from the Southern/Thameslink website, last week saw a number of days where the Public Performance Measure on some routes fell significantly below 80 per cent. Whilst the underlying cause of some of this will have been infrastructure failures this will be of little comfort to those passengers who were caught up in the resulting disruption.

Travel tales

Our senior policy advisor Phil has had a bad week so far. Monday night’s journey home (City Thamneslink – Streatham – Thornton Heath) was slightly late on both sections of the trip. On Tuesday there were a number of delays and cancellations in the morning,. In the evening his 5.25 train from City Thameslink was slightly late with no reason given, and crowded too.

Phil says: “Staff attempted to move the train on almost as soon as it had stopped to save further loss of time, somewhat overlooking the fact that most passengers had still yet to board. It eventually left about 7 minutes late and made up no time.” However the second leg of that trip actually got in early.

This morning Phil experienced ‘general shambles’ with various delays and cancellations, and trains announced as eight cars only turning out to have four. He heard no explanations or apologies, and arrived at work 20 minutes late.

Meanwhile Board member Isabel had a difficult weekend with trains between Gipsy Hill and Victoria delayed and cancelled on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was better, and she was pleased to experience the new escalators at London Bridge.

From the app

angry

 

“Trains cancelled then next train delayed … Pathetic. Missed training again, health suffering, eating late, not able to make plans.”
“Cancelled and delayed trains again, every day, in bound 15 mins and out bound an hour again, always on the way home it’s carnage. Exercise out the window again, eating late again, health suffering, family suffering, cost of exercise not recovered. Who cares?”
“Because even if a train is running to time, it seems Southern can create misery in seconds and I can be moments away from another evening away from my children.”
“The train was so full one could hardly breathe. You would treat cattle more humanely.”

bored

 

“Southern part of journey ok, delayed from CLJ to dmk.”
“Noisy kids.”
“Train delayed leaving London Victoria.”

 

 

frustrated

 

“Cancelled due to lack of train crew.”
“First train delayed. Missed connection at CLJ then next train also delayed and extremely overcrowded due to cancellation of other services on same route.”
“My train was late so I was likely to miss my connection. Then find my connection was running late as well so managed to get it. However, I was still late to work.”

 

happy

 

“1910 from Victoria was late but they actually held the Nutfield train – which they say they cannot do!”
“I feel as you should feel about your journey. I got an early train, it was on time, minimal wait for connection. Journey ran to time and I got a seat.”
“All going okay, good temperature, a new train, got a seat, pretty much running to time.”

 

indifferent

 

“Train was running a bit late but I got a seat which was a lovely surprise on a Monday morning.”
“Rammed train but ontime at least.”
“Late as per but only by 7 mins. better than nothing.”

 

 

relaxed

 

 

“Left Vic on train – no connection train from Redhill though.”

 

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“Late leaving Victoria and the dreaded ‘delayed’ appeared on Clapham CIS for a time. after that no issues.”
“Branch train running late so only got London train by a whisker.”

In recent months we have been able to use input from the travel diary app to drive real improvements. Around 60 of you are using it regularly.

What has been especially useful for giving a picture of areas to improve, is having consistent updates from people. To encourage new and existing app users to log all their journeys for the month, we are running a prize draw. Anyone who logs more than 25 entries in September will be automatically entered for the chance to win £100.

Travel tales

Transport Focus press officer Kieran travelled from London to Brighton this weekend. Despite initial trepidation about relying on Southern to get him to Brighton the train there and back was actually on time.

Kieran said:

“On the return journey on Sunday we just about managed to get a seat. Despite it being a late evening train it was a surprisingly crowded service with a number of passengers standing. The train was on time though.”

Our senior policy advisor Phil has had a series of short-formed trains arrive, leading to severe crowding. Today this was made worse by a passenger getting on with a non-folding bike – banned on trains arriving into London before 10am, but clearly not enforced. There were a number of trains delayed or cancelled on his route (Thornton Heath to City Thameslink via Streatham) but no explanations given.

One of our diary app users didn’t log a journey – they gave up and stayed home: “Fed up with the inconsistencies in the trains so worked from home.”

From the app

relaxed

 

“No issues.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“Busy train.”
“OK. a little late.”
“First day of re-instated timetable – slightly late, overcrowded but no disasters!”
“Usual minor delay.”
“Reinstitution of permanent timetable. My branch train has gone from 06:57 back to regular 06:49 which means more waiting round at redhill, as London train doesn’t come to 07:16. I notice that 3/6 trains due to travel are cancelled in the time I was standing there – funny because everything’s meant to be back to normal.”
“It ran on time.”

happy

 

“On time despite the rain – miracle!”
“Straightforward journey.”
“All as advertised.”

 

frustrated

 

“Delayed into and home from London.”
“Crew delayed the inbound service.( I found this out for myself) my service reported as 10 mins delayed but in reality 20 mins delayed. No apologies offered from HF on Twitter team. usual shambolic approach. Oxted station staff closed window and ticket machines not properly functioning.”
“Broken down train and signal failure meant sitting on stationary train for half an hour.”

bored

 

“Train too full, people shoving on, no room for people to get off without getting agitated.”

 

 

angry

 

“Caught the 5:27 from Victoria, it left 10 minutes late. I arrived home 11 minutes late. This train journey is a very typical example of the deliberately sh!t  service Southern delivers. This example typically happens about once a fortnight. The example explains that Govia claims to have created a more resilient service are c*ck. And, explains why you should always pay scant regards to Govia excuses blaming staff, network rail. or next door’s dog.  The 5:27 was 10 minutes late leaving Vic. At various parts of the journey this built to 15 minutes but driver and guard had reduced the delay to 10 minutes by Polegate.  The train arrived at Whitley road bridge at 17:02, or thereabouts, within sight of the platform. It was held for just over 2 minutes. It arrived at Eastbourne 11 minutes late. All of the crews efforts to make up time had been trashed.  It gets better. The train still could have won back the time it lost at the bridge. The train arrived at 7:06, and was scheduled to leave at 7:02. However, it took a leisurely 3 minutes to start the process of dividing the train. These f#(Kers were in no hurry. Train split, and ready to go the train then sat for 5+ minutes going no where. Why? Because 2 trains were allowed to jump the queue, leapfrogging us and leaving first. We left Eastbourne 10 minutes late, but because we were behind this trains it was 11 minutes by Hampden Park. Spare a thought for the Hastings travellers, they got home 17 minutes late. If you want a reason why Govia should loose the franchise this it, they’ve been pulling this kind of stunt regularly for years.”

We spotted this story from the West Sussex Times today – a commuter has tweeted Southern to ask if a hot air balloon he saw bearing the company’s logo was in fact a replacement for one of the cancelled services.

Southern is advertising an online ‘passenger panel’ event on Tuesday. Log on to Twitter to take part.Southern pax panel 16 Sept
Your input has identified some poor information provision. We have used these specific examples to challenge Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). The company responded positively and agreed that it is not acceptable – and that the examples will be used to directly tackle those who are accountable.

GTR is consulting on a major timetable change for 2018 that will affect Thameslink, Southern, Gatwick Express and Great Northern routes.

You can download the details, a ‘station checker’ and respond to the consultation at the GTR website. It closes at 5pm on 8 December 2016.

There will also be a number of ‘meet the manager’ events at stations – keep an eye out for posters with details.

 

Travel tales

Our case study this week is of a male commuter aged 45-54, who travels between Christs Hospital and Victoria using Southern services.

16 Sept diary

Yesterday our Board member Isabel arrived at Sydenham Hill in plenty of time for the Southeastern 12.49pm train to Herne Hill. National Rail Enquiries website had warned of some delays and cancellations due to disruption between Victoria and Beckenham junction. She boarded a delayed train – but the doors didn’t open at Herne Hill, and the train set off again with no announcement or explanation.

This ended up causing a 25 minute delay for a 15 minute journey.

That evening she got to London Bridge at 7.30pm. She says: “Even at peak times the trains to Gipsy Hill are two 3 minutes apart, then two 28 minutes apart, so it seems I never have less than 20 minutes wait.”

Her first train was delayed but she managed to get the 7.55pm service.

From the app

angry

 

“Train only 6 carriages and arrived over 15 minutes late.”

 

 

 

bored

“Tired and hot.”
“Usual slow journey, holds, delays no communication.”
“Left work late, train from Balham was late and close to missing connection.”

 

 

happy

 

 

“Just an average journey.”
“All fine. Broadly on time.”

 

indifferent

 

 

“Left almost on time…”
“Usual 5:12 from Hampden Park, 6 minutes late arriving at Victoria. For an unexplainable reason we lost 2 minutes towards Polegate. If that had been all that would have been ok. However, we were deliberately delayed for Keymer junction, held by Southern control and the signallers. The train then lost up to 7 minutes, which was eventually reduced to 6 on arrival. Whilst the guard made several apologises for the delay, we were never told why. But let’s face it in those circumstances, given there was no legitimate reason for making everyone late, who would want to explain why?”

relaxed

“No issues.”
“Train was delayed by a couple of mins, due to train ahead but otherwise journey was fine.”
“Caught the 20:17. It lost 6 minutes on the way to East Croydon, building to 10 by Haywards Heath. However by Hampden Park the crew had won back the minutes, bringing the delay down to 6 minutes. Very impressed with the train crew. It was very obvious that Southern control were deliberately delaying the service to favour a Brighton line train due to the pauses the driver was forced to make outside of East Croydon and all of the stops including Balcombe. But, at every opportunity, when they had a clear line the drivers drove to make up time. The guards played their bit to getting the train off swiftly too. If only every journey was like this one I’d be happy! I cannot say that I am as warmly disposed to Southern control. Southern control very obviously delayed us tonight in favour of the Brighton line. Something they often do. Whilst I really appreciate train crews working to make up time for the Eastbourne line, I know the crews are taking a big personal risk. Southern rolling stock, and the track are so poorly maintained that one day there will be an accident when they do this. I hope someone takes control to sort things out before this happens.”
“No issues despite the foul weather.”

Passengers will be pleased to hear that from next Monday 19 September, Southern will be reinstating the full timetable from Tonbridge and Reigate to Redhill and London Victoria/London Bridge. This will also see the full service between Redhill and London restored. Train times on these routes will revert to the original timetable.

We are yet to hear when all other services will be restored to the full timetable across Southern.

Making enhanced compensation easier for passengers

In addition to the delay repay compensation that Southern offers its passengers for individual instances of delay (delays of 30 minutes or more) season ticket holders are also able to claim an ‘enhanced’ level of compensation. To qualify for this passengers must have experienced 12 delays of 30 minutes or more in a specific four week reporting period. Further details of the scheme and a claim form can be found here.

Having monitored social media feedback from passengers over the summer we are aware that some passengers have found the form for the enhanced compensation to be complicated and cumbersome to fill in. Some passengers spoke about the need to automate the enhanced compensation procedure. For those who have been regularly delayed, and have subsequently claimed delay repay, and because of the subsequent backlog of claims and the time that elapses between submitting a claim and receiving vouchers, it is also often quite hard to keep track of exactly how many claims you have submitted.

We put this point to Southern and expressed the view that having been delayed on 12 occasions, season ticket holders might not feel that they should have to claim for the enhanced compensation if they had already claimed for the individual journeys as and when they occurred. Their details, and a record of the successful claims would be on Southern’s complaints database after all.

Southern responded by telling us that one of the reasons the enhanced compensation isn’t automated at the moment is because passengers are asked to make a choice between the two day returns, or vouchers to the value of a single journey covered by their season ticket. Southern could not choose on the passengers’ behalf, as depending on the passenger’s regular journey one option might be of more value to them than the other.

We suggested that instead of automatically paying the compensation there could be a notification email or letter, sent by Southern, to the passenger to say ‘you are eligible to claim one of two things, let us know which you would prefer’. Although we recognise that this might place an extra burden on Southern’s customer service team, at a time when they are already very busy, we believe that such a move would gain some credit amongst passengers.

Travel tales

Transport Focus Policy Advisor Phil said was waiting this morning for his train at Thornton Heath and said “8.48 to Sutton cancelled, 8.34 to Victoria departed 8.38 and the 8.37 to London Bridge departed at 8.42. Reached Streatham in time to catch the 8.53 but…

“At Streatham the 8.53 to Bedford (my train) advertised as eight coaches on the Customer Information Station, but had only four. This means it is very unlikely that passengers at Streatham will be able to board and anyway the back of the train is now 80m up the platform so I won’t get there in time anyway.

The 9.13 (next Thameslink train to City Thameslink) was running 7 minutes late and got later on route. Arrived 9.50 (due 9.36) making me 34 minutes late.”

From the app

angry

“05:34 train cancelled again, for second day running – no explanation given.”

“13 minutes late getting home tonight, but it could have been 26 minutes – Southern control, staff, and timetablers are complete F*****s. Spotted there were delays so set off early. Caught the 15:47 from Vic. It was late in but turned around relatively quickly, leaving 14 minutes late. It lost more time down to Haywards Heath & Lewes, departing 22 minutes late.  Guard hiding in rear cab all the way from Haywards Heath. A very busy train loads standing, but matey didn’t bother to declassify 1st. One short announcement at Lewes explaining delays due to earlier fatality. At Lewes I spotted the Brighton – Ore train, curiosity prompted me to check the times of the train I was on. Unannounced to us the passengers they had cancelled my stop and 5 others. The preceding Ore train was going to get me home sooner. I changed at Polegate to catch it. I saw the guard on the platform, and asked him why he hadn’t told his passengers about the cancelled stops. He first claimed not to know, and when I asked about speaking to Control tried to change the subject.  I got home 13 minutes late, it could have been 26 minutes, and later than the train I would normally have caught which was running behind. Govia promised that the new timetable would be resilient, Govia promised us a new improved world of Customer assistants in place of guards. Cancelling stops, and not bothering to keep passengers informed, keeps neither of these promises. From the top of the organization to the bottom Govia are F*****s.”

bored

“Delayed again.”

“Train late leaving, platform not given until a couple of mins before departure so mad rush to get a seat. Poor First Class accommodation and no one checks tickets so forced to listen to someone else’s headphones while he lounges with his feet on the seats. Don’t feel safe enough to intervene.”

“Very crowded train.”

“Train cancelled had to get the next one.”

“Caught later 5:47. Short formed of 4 rather than 8 carriages. No explanation or apology. Passengers standing from Berwick. 1st not declassified.  Arrived Haywards Heath new crew, new guard acknowledged and apologized for overcrowding. 1st declassified. I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t an 8 car available in the Eastbourne depot. I also find it dreary and disappointing that nothing was done nor apology made for the overcrowding until halfway through the journey, at Haywards Heath.”

happy

 

 

“Ran on time and I got a seat.2

 

 

frustrated

“Disruption. Train late. 2 other trains came through first unexpectedly and nobody on the station knew if they were my train or not. displaying please listen to announcements on the side of the train hardly helped.”

“Hottest September day for 100 years and the air conditioning does not work.”

“Long delays at Victoria.”

“Stood again. Train short. First class being ignored.

Trains significantly delayed and cancelled. Poor crowd control at East Croydon. Moved us from platform 2 to platform 3 – 1 minute before late running train due. Train rammed people trying to squeeze in horrendous conditions and we all watched an almost brand new empty Gatwick express train to Brighton (suspect from Victoria) as these rarely stop at East Croydon) crawl past – why could they mondo an additional stop? Crazy makes no sense. No A/C on the train when the temperature outside is 30 degrees – disgraceful. When I got off at three bridges not everyone who wanted to could physically squeeze on the train.

“Short formed and therefore way overcrowded on the hottest day of the year. Luckily we had an air conditioned train for once. Driver made some very apologetic announcements, but at the end of the day it was a massively uncomfortable experience and a rubbish way to start the day.”

indifferent

“No real comment.”

“Usual rammed slightly late.”

“On time. Got a seat!”

“Routine journey. Not good not bad. A little overcrowded.”

There is an adjournment debate on Govia Thameslink Railway this evening initiated by the MP for Crawley Henry Smith.

Meanwhile some colleagues have been out to the new-look London Bridge for a tour – see some pictures, below, including our chief executive Anthony Smith talking to Network Rail manager Andrew Hutton.

LB1LB4 LB3

Travel tales

Senior policy advisor Phil was on a short-formed 8.37 from Thornton Heath today – the announcement said eight coaches but there were just four, which will have been uncomfortably crowded later in the journey.

His connecting service from Streatham was ‘just’ six minutes late into City Thameslink after leaving on time.

Meanwhile our Board member Isabel had a good day on Friday travelling from Gipsy Hill to Victoria and back, with both trains on time.

On Saturday she needed to travel to Peckham but National Rail Enquiries was unable to give her a concrete answer about which trains were running.

She says: “On balance I suppose it is better to be told “we may or may not show up” than to be told nothing, but it adds uncertainty and anxiety and not sure what one can do.”

From the app

angry

“Three trains cancelled in a row. Fourth train 15 minutes late.”

bored

“Train running slow stuck behind a stopping train so late into Brighton.”

“Train lost time most of the way down, and despite having clear line lost even more time from Lewes lost 2 minutes on that part of the journey. One consolation, part of the train was made up of the old style stock with the comfortable seats.”

happy

“Bog standard journey. No problems.”

“On time and not busy.”

“Train on time.”

indifferent

“Arrived on time which was great. Some sort of police incident at Victoria but when I arrived it was being handled well. Particularly rough ride between Polegate and Lewes: The train bogies hunting most of the way, and the kinks in the track chucking the train all over the place. One day soon there will be a derailment, hope I’m not around when it happens.”

“Train was slightly late – as usual.”

“Train on time.”

“Nutfield train late but we made the connection.”

To read updates from previous days, click here.

Listen out for us on Monday – we are taking part in a few BBC radio interviews around ‘rail day’.

More than half of the new London Bridge station opened last month, over the bank holiday. A number of Transport Focus staff have visited and travelled through the station and have given some constructive feedback to Network Rail.

Access to buses and taxis

We felt that some of the signage is confusing as it is not clear that passengers have to go up an escalator to get to the bus station and taxi rank. Network Rail acknowledged this and is reviewing the signage

Access to the tube

London Bridge signage 9 SeptIt appears strange that the seemingly direct access to the underground is marked as ‘am/pm peak hours only’. During off-peak hours these routes are closed, with passengers directed out on to the street to get to the underground.

When we raised this, Network Rail said that different walking routes are needed while redevelopment works continue for the full station rebuild. This direct route is therefore closed during the off-peak period to allow work to continue – but will be open all day from 2018. We have recommended that Network Rail lets passengers know this.

As is normal in such huge projects, a full review is planned for four weeks following the opening.

Transport Focus will be at this review and would really like to hear from passengers who are now using the new part of the station that we can feed into this review.

Travel tales

Our Board member Isabel switched to bus and tube on Wednesday to avoid strike-related disruption on her usual Southern route from Gipsy Hill into London. While it worked well on the outward journey, on her return she was caught up in disruption caused by a faulty tube train, then her train from London Bridge was cancelled. A second train three minutes later saved the day – but after that it would have been almost half an hour’s wait for the next one. She got back to Gipsy Hill an hour and 45 minutes after leaving Moorgate – having covered a distance of just eight miles.

On Thursday, after warnings of delays and crowding on Southern during the second day of the strike, Isabel switched to the bus. Predicted to take an hour (on the TfL website), the journey came in pretty much on time.

On the way back her train journey from City Thameslink via Herne Hill was on time and with a reasonable amount of room (even some seats at the start of the journey at 5.25pm).

Case study

This week’s travel diary is of a Southern commuter aged 45-54. Her journey is between Brighton and Lewes on Southern services.

9 Sept diary

 

From the app

angry

 

 

“Longer journey and delayed to boot.”

 

 

happy

“Train ran on time.”

“Train arrived on time, which was great. A bit of noisy carriage; aircon and ceiling panels etc. rattling more than is usual. Otherwise ok journey.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“Busy journey from VIC to RDH but did get a seat as 10 mins before departure. Could not travel to usual station due to strike.”

“The train was on time but I had less choice due to the strike action.”

Today is the second day of the Southern strike. We’re continuing to feed back your tweets, app entries and emails to the operator.

Meanwhile the rail regulator published performance figures showing that nearly one in 10 services operated by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) in April to June this year were either cancelled or more than 30 minutes late.

This period includes some earlier industrial action, and a reported increase in staff sickness levels. Immediately after this period, in early July, a temporary ’emergency’ timetable was introduced to remove services but improve reliability.

Travel tales

8 Sept word cloud

From the app

angry

“Train packed standing room only. No A/C but a few windows open.”

“Strike!”

“Strike day. No services from usual station. Reduced timetable and short formed trains. Unable to get on first CLJ train and next cancelled so waited for over 30 mins for train. Connection for next train delayed by 7 mins at ECR. Total delay over usual route approx 45 mins and still not to usual station so additional 25 mins walk from Redhill to home.”

“I had to catch an earlier train due to strike action. The train itself was uncomfortable with very limited leg room and no table.”

happy

“A train was provided at a new time which went straight through to Preston Park.”

 

 

 

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

 

“Driver blared their horn as the train pulled in, giving us waiting passengers quite a scare for no reason! Otherwise fine.”

 

 

bored

 

 

“Strike action has cancelled all my trains and added 40mins to my journey.”

 

 

indifferent

 

 

“Normal station closed for strike timetable. Extreme overcrowding.”

 

 

relaxed

“Train was on time and journey proceeded without issues.”

“Train on time, A/C working so a good temperature, although not my usual train because of the strike it made an additional stop at Croydon (as a fast London Victoria  train).”

“It was a strike day but a faster train available as making additional stop at east Croydon.”

 

Southern rail passengers are facing more disruption as a two-day strike by the RMT union went ahead today.

More than two out of five trains are set to be cancelled, while there will be no service on some routes. We continue to urge both sides to get together to resolve things as soon as possible for the relief of embattled commuters.

See what passengers had to say about the strikes in is video from BBC London:

We will be using your app stories during the strike to update Govia Thameslink Railway on the impact on passengers.

Travel tales

Transport Focus staff member Phil was travelled home later last night as he had been out in London with friends. The 19.45 Victoria to Tattenham Corner was running late so departed at 20.00 and missing out all stops until Selhurst.

Phil said: “The 20.00 to Sutton ran behind this and was 5 minutes late by the time we reached Norbury. Several later trains were cancelled (in both directions) according to the departure board at Norbury.”

And this morning Phil reported that the 8.34 Thornton Heath to Victoria was cancelled.

Observing this morning’s commute Phil said: “8.37 to London Bridge, despite having a clear run now, was 2 minutes late leaving.

“The 8.53 from Streatham was ‘being delayed’ for undisclosed reasons, but the 8.29 appeared at 8.52. It was almost empty, which suggests that it had not done its usual journeys as it is usually heaving by the time it gets to Streatham. This reached City Thameslink at 9.20 (four minutes after the 8.53 is due).

“The 8.53 was due in three minutes after that at 9.23. The driver on our train suggested that an earlier broken-down train at Blackfriars was the cause.”

From the app

angry

“Several trains cancelled at London Bridge. Had to get on overcrowded train to East Croydon and then battle through crush to make it across platforms to pick up train to Haywards Heath, which is also overcrowded. Big Southern fail today and conflicting information on whether tomorrow’s strike is going ahead.”

“Train cancelled from London Bridge so had to go via Victoria. Revised timetable at Brighton has removed my connecting train so now walking home from Brighton.”

“The strike meant my train was cancelled. The next one was slower.

happy

“Happy it was on time despite strike.”

 

 

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“10 minute delay and I needed to drop my daughter with my mum and get to work.”

 

 

 

bored

“Late arrival to station. Slow journey even later at destination.”

“Train was late.”

“Just once I’d like to take my usual train home and for it to not be delayed.”

frustrated

“Standing room only and no A/C on a hot day.”

“Cancelled train yet again.”

indifferent

“Another day of not knowing what journey will be like.”

“Train was on time – more or less.”

“I think the train may have left Preston Park station a minute early – so some people may have missed it.”

relaxed

“Train on time and I had a good seat.”

The planned strike on Wednesday and Thursday means many services will not run. We advise all passengers to check before travelling.

Following the reopening of some of London Bridge station last week, we will be meeting Network Rail to discuss signing and way-finding

We continue to use your comments and experiences when we meet ministers, officials and the operators. Currently 54 people are logging their journeys with us – click to find out how you can add your voice to the mix.

We’re really grateful for those who take the time to log diary entries on the app, email us or fill in the feedback form. It all helps build a picture of the ‘human’ impact of performance issues.

Travel tales

Senior policy advisor Phil turned up to catch the reinstated 8.37 from Thornton Heath to London Bridge this morning. Unfortunately, at about 8.33 it was cancelled but the announcement was made while a train was passing so many passengers didn’t catch the reason.

Phil says: “It being a wet and chilly morning made it all the more annoying to find the waiting room closed – although the lights were on inside.  None of the three members of Southern staff on the station at the time has access to a key to open it.”

Phil then travelled via East Croydon, having been told by staff that this would be quicker. However, it wasn’t.  He walked back along the train to the lifts from platform 5 only to find them out of order – this was not updated on the website. After waiting for a station wheelchair to help him over the steep ramps to the bridge, he caught the slightly lane-running 9.25 and arrived shortly after the original train should have got in.

Board member Isabel used the newly reopened platforms at London Bridge yesterday, to travel to Gipsy Hill. She reported an almost-disrupted journey – a suspect package meant that the train would skip her station, but this was resolved on arrival at the station afterwards so she was able to reboard and go to her station after all.

From the app

angry

“1642 Thameslink from LBG cancelled – signalling. thought I’d fall back on Southern Littlehampton but that cancelled as no crew. caught up with usual train at Croydon but that’s supposedly Barnham and Bognor but quite likely to be all Bognor when it comes to it. who knows.”

“Multiple delays on journey. 1721 from dmk cancelled so went to VIC. Train to Redhill then delayed (no crew) so travelled on alternative service to ECR. Final connection (after waiting for 30 mins) delayed by 9 mins at Redhill.”

“Delayed again.”

“Bus replacement bus from Ashford but didn’t make an earlier connection in Hastings due to bus time so could have waited at Ashford. Bus cramped and no seat belts and it was a double decker.”

bored

“The train was just four carriages — it was packed.”

“Short formed again, no apology for the overcrowding except for the automated station system. conductor came through early in the journey but didn’t check key cards. why ask to see my ticket and then just wave it through? you can’t tell that a key is valid just by looking.”

 

frustrated

“The automatic door between carriages was opening and shutting for the entire journey. No guard came through so no chance of asking for it to be disabled. Extremely annoying.”

“Train was delayed sat at Vic for a long time with no information missed my connection as late arrival into Brighton absolute joke southern has taken over 1:30hrs of my time this week with delays.”

 

happy

“It was on time.”

“On time and no delays!”

“On time.”

“Ran on time and not too busy.”

 

indifferent

“Normal nothing special day.”

 

 

 

 

stressed

“Train delayed again.”

Today the Go Ahead group (which part-owns Southern) announced its financial results for the last year. There was a great deal of interest in this given yesterday’s announcement of a hit squad to improve the services. Our chief executive Anthony Smith asked “where is the passenger dividend” and repeated our calls for more to be done to resolve immediate problems – see this Evening Standard article.

Today the Guardian also ran a live blog on train travel experiences – we provided background information on passenger satisfaction. You can read more on the Guardian website. Here is one example of a commenter who has now starting driving because of the Southern issues.

Guardian live chat 1 Sept

More travel experiences

Today’s weekly diary is of a male commuter aged 35-44 who travels between Preston Park and London Waterloo for work.

2 Sept case study diary

From our webform

Simon travels between Portslade and Victoria, and said:

“What’s the point?
Southern couldn’t care less about passengers
The RMT couldn’t care less about passengers
The government couldn’t care less about passengers
Why waste our breath?”
Rohit N travels between Balham and Sutton, and said:

“I am appalled by the service Southern rail is providing to its passengers. Never mind the constant cancellations, forever ongoing strike actions and always delayed services – even the station staff are the most unhelpful of any other service I have seen. Either they are not provided with enough training or they are just simply incompetent in their jobs.

“I was in Balham Station on 1st September 2016 waiting for a DELAYED 18:49 Sutton service. Before that comes the DELAYED 18:45 Epson Downs service. It stays at the platform and no one announces anything in the station. Not a single words. There is an announcement inside the train and crowd of people leave the train because the train was being cancelled. But no one made any announcements in the platform.

“I’m still waiting to find out what is happening to the Sutton service which is now 19:05 and still hasn’t arrived. Then suddenly there is an announcement in the station that the Sutton service is in a different platform and this announcement happens after the train is actually in the platform!!!

“The way to get to this platform is through a sub-way and then the usual crowd of rush starts and now after waiting for nearly 30 mins for a DELAYED service I cant get onto to it because the station staff cant bother to make announcements before the train arrives at the platform.

“This is pathetic service. Southern should be ashamed of how it treats it customers and the kind of training and information it provides to its employees.”

 

From the app

angry

“Had to get off at Redhill for alternative service as the connection carriages had been ‘lost’. Standing room only in next train. Minor delay to connection to dmk adding to delay. Late for work again.”

 

 

happy

“Previous train was delayed long enough for me to catch it, reducing the number of connections I needed to get home.”
“Went ok .”

 

 

indifferent

“Delayed en route from CLJ to ELD. Held at red signal at Purley oaks. No clear reason why. On plus side had a seat for a change.”
“I will have to make up time at work because train I wanted to get doesn’t run.”
“Trains seem fine now after being delayed and canceled earlier in the day.”
relaxed

“On time and strangely empty train. chatty and friendly conductor performing a rare ticket check.”
“On leave.”
“On time, train not full so plenty of space, quiet and peaceful.”

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“Random stopping and slowing – the driver was mumbling so no idea why.”

 

 

 

Today the Government launched a package of measures including a ‘hit squad’ to tackle Southern issues.

The new project board is to deliver ‘rapid’ improvements:
– led by former Virgin boss Chris Gibb
– with a £20m fund for improvements
– includes the train operator, the Department for Transport and Network Rail
– will also be attended by a passenger ‘representative’.

We think passengers will welcome this as a positive step towards getting back to a reliable railway, and published the following statement in response:

“Passengers will welcome a firmer grip being taken. Continuing poor performance has eroded their trust in the railway. To start rebuilding that trust we want to see an honest, realistic plan that leads to a return of reliable services – and better compensation for the months of misery they have experienced.”

Next week’s planned strike of station staff has now been suspended. However, there will still be strikes on Wednesday and Thursday next week over a different issue (changes to the role of conductors).

Southern has announced it will run a contingency strike timetable and advises passengers to check its websitewww.southernrailway.com for details

Meanwhile, on the Southeastern part of the network there have been another two days of disruption. Today a broken-down train at Blackheath station affected busy commuter routes from Dartford into central London.

Travel tales
Our policy advisor Phil reports ‘major havoc’ on his way in to London Bridge today.

He says:
“My 8.07 train finally departed at 8.20 but was further delayed at Streatham and Tulse Hull, reaching London Bridge at 9.11 – 26 mins late. This was attributed by the driver to signalling problems.

“Assistance was waiting for me but with the weirdest wheelchair which has no footrests so my legs were very tired by the time we reached the bus stop as I had to raise them in transit.”

Following a long wait for the bus and then in traffic, Phil reached the office 40 minutes later than usual, having got to the station 50 mins earlier than usual, so an extra 90 minutes’ journey time today.

He said: “Bedlam! I’d probably have got here earlier if I’d travelled on the 9.07 (an hour later) and changed at Streatham for City Thameslink.”
From the app

angry

“Signal problems causing 20 minute delay.”

 

 

 

 

bored

“The train was delayed by 17 minutes in arriving at Gatwick and by the time we arrived in Preston Park it was 22 mins late.”
“Fed up.”
“Train is on time but short formation and overcrowded. Managed to get guard to agree to declassify first class so got a seat.”
“30 mins late due to missed connection at CLJ (signalling problems at streatham common).”

 

frustrated

“Late into London, late home again.”
“0634 on time but yet again held outside Redhill for several minutes. Tonbridge line is just totally disregarded – even worse under this latest emergency set up. The current wait for the Victoria connection is longer so Southern has more wriggle room and can claim services are more reliable! The con ( which is what it is) only worked today because the 0648 was late. Constant anxiety & irritation about delays and connections.”
“Yet another delay. Accumulation of delays.”
“Cancellations and delays.”
“1932 from Vic was late and then runs fast. Catch 1940 to Redhill, miss 2008 to Nutfield and now 2052 is cancelled.”
“Train cancellation and no information about how likely services were to restart.”
“I get up at 05:00 in the morning, which is not pleasant, so it’s incredibly frustrating to get to the station only to see that your train has been cancelled. Both the 05:34 & 05:51 trains from Preston Park were cancelled.”
“Again 18 minute delay.”

 

happy

“Standard commute.”
“It ran to time.”
“This journey was okay. Normal and routine. Morning Journeys are generally better.”

 

 

 

indifferent

“There was a small delay.”
“The end connection to London Road Brighton is now so infrequent that I have to walk for fifteen minutes at the end of my journey.”
“Ran late and slightly anxious about making the connection at Redhill.”
“Reasonable journey. No problems from dmk to CLJ. Minor delay from CLJ to ELD (approx 4 mins).”
“Just a normal journey. no panics but no ticket collection or first class enforcing going on.”

 

relaxed

“All on time for the first time in months.”
“Train on time and less packed due to school holidays.”
“No issues.”

 

 

 

stressed

“Train is delayed outside Haywards Heath. Just annoying.”

 

 

 

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“I can’t rely on trains any more.”
“Website said on time, fully formed and running normally but you never quite know until it turns up.”

“Time for doors to open when train was at Victoria. Delay in leaving the station and speed of train.”

“Trains severely disrupted from both London Bridge and Victoria. Had to get next train to east Croydon and then change and hope to get a train through to Brighton.”

“I have to get a later train as my train is cancelled on the temporary train timetable. Anxious as I was late yesterday.”

London Bridge station reopened (partially) this weekend. Some Transport Focus staff went along for a tour – see pics below.

London Bridge concourse preview 5London Bridge concourse preview 18

Meanwhile, MPs Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham), Chris Philp (Croydon South) and Helen Hayes(Dulwich and West Norwood) have shared the app on social media recently – great to see word is spreading!

We continue to use app entries to challenge Thameslink (GTR) to improve information during disruption. Here’s another example from our work with the operator.

You said

frustrated
“Train terminated at West Croydon due to engineering works. long walk to bus stop for rail replacement bus which never turned up. had to get a much slower regular bus home which took ages.”

Southern passenger, travelling between Carshalton and Euston on 21 August at 6.07pm.

 

Response from GTR

“Replacement buses were in operation on the day from West Croydon to Carshalton Beeches. However, the bus station at West Croydon is undergoing significant redevelopment at the moment. There is a note about this on their station’s website page, Due to on-going works, the stops for Rail Replacement bus services at West Croydon bus station are subject to regular change. Please check with local staff if intending to use this service.”

Action

We challenged GTR, suggesting that it is not enough to have such important information on the website alone. We asked whether there was also sufficient signage at West Croydon and enough staff to direct passengers towards rail replacement services.

GTR promised to follow this up with its partner London Overground which also runs services from the station.
From the app

 

angry

“Severely overcrowded train (no seats) full of passengers (and their mass of cases/luggage) to Gatwick Airport at which point the train emptied and I got a seat for the remainder of my journey home.”
“0634 cancelled – have an 8000 meeting.”

 

 

bored

“Late. 21 mins. there’s a shocker.”
“Mostly ok tonight. Very overcrowded on southern service from CLJ to ECR. Barely able to get on. Taxi home from Redhill as no service to ELD at this time (previously would have connected to 2016 CLJ to ELD but this has been diverted to run from LBG for some time). It’s impossible to make the connection for this service from CLJ.”

 

relaxed

 

“Train on time, correct length and working air-conditioning. can forgive a couple of minutes late at Vic.”
“There was a train 10 minutes after I got to the station that ran on time.”

 

 

frustrated

 

“The train was due to leave at 22:20 and was cancelled the next train to Brighton was delayed should have left at 22:50 but didn’t expect to leave until 11pm so I took the 22:47 train to Worthing to avoid being stranded. I then had to be picked up from Preston park.”
“Because Southern couldn’t run a p*** up in a brewery. changed stock and platform last minute from an 8 car to a rammed packed 4. crew had no clue what was going. utterly utterly useless.”

indifferent

 

 

“All fine.”
“Worried after last evenings short formation that wasn’t shown on station signs or websites I went to the station with trepidation. however nothing to fear. all worked perfectly and pleasantly cool in the air con.”

The RMT union has announced a strike by Govia Thameslink (GTR) station staff on 7 September. You can read GTR’s response here. Both sides must get together to resolve things as soon as possible for the relief of long-suffering commuters.

We are pleased to report your input is having an impact. We are continuing to use your app entries to challenge GTR to improve information during disruption, see the latest example below.

Passenger input

Thameslink between Hackbridge and City Thameslink on 16 August at 8.42am.

angry

“Almost 40 min delay, no reasons why, no station announcements no alternatives given.”

 

 

 

Response from GTR

GTR has told us that the reason this train was so delayed was down it leaving the depot late. It then subsequently lost its scheduled path and picked up more delays en-route to Sutton, via Wimbledon. The delay to the next working of the train (the service starting at Sutton), the first being the trip from the depot to Sutton, was not put into the system. In industry terms this is called an ‘associated working’, where one train working (or journey) is linked to another. GTR has advised Transport Focus that they are looking at how delay reasons can be fed to associated/onward services more effectively.

We are told that a message should however have been relayed to passengers, stating that ‘this train has been delayed by it being late from the depot’; so passengers should have heard it being announced at the station. If not, then it is possible that there was a fault on the ground at the station.

Two actions came from this piece of feedback:

  • the delay should have been fed into the system earlier. GTR will now look at how delay reasons can be fed to onward services more effectively.
  • possibly a fault with the station PA system. This is being followed up.

GTR responded to say that in such situations they would expect station teams to make local announcements regarding the alternative journey options for customers. However, in this instance as it was a single train cancellation ticket acceptance on alternative services would not have been arranged with London buses or other operators. Therefore in reality, from Hackbridge the only viable alternative would have been to wait for the next service. Journey options back to Sutton would not have sped up the overall journey and London buses to Mitcham Junction, Tramlink to Wimbledon and then alternative services to London would not have been any faster. This has led to the following action:

  • GTR need to give staff the confidence to say that the next best customer journey option is to wait for the next train, potentially travelling to Sutton might have allowed the customer to get a seat on the next train but that’s a best case scenario. They are working on some best practice with the team at East Croydon.

Travel tales

This week’s case study is a female commuter between 35 and 44. She travels to work using Southern between Redhill and London Bridge.

Diary app - journey week 260816From the app

angry

 

“Have to take a later train as my usual train is cancelled from Lrb to Btn. The later train was delayed due to late staff members on the inbound journey. This made me late for work and stresses.”

 

bored

“Usual inability to arrive as booked.”

“The train from London Bridge delayed and shortened; it was cancelled from Three Bridges due to driver shortages so I had to change at Gatwick airport and wait ten minutes for a Thameslink train to Brighton.”

“Took an earlier train than normal – train is running 5 mins late but no dramas.”

“Delayed by 10mins and busy train.”

“Train delayed en route.”

indifferent

 

“Uneventful trip.”

“Journey was fine. Some seats available which makes a nice change.”

 

 

relaxed

“OK.”

 

 

 

 

stressed

 

“My train was delayed meaning I was late home. My morning train is cancelled so I have to get a later train.”

 

Some good news and bad for those travelling into London Bridge.

This weekend marks the start of another ‘blockade’ meaning that services will be changed.

However, a big section (almost two thirds) of the new concourse will be open from Bank Holiday Monday. Lifts, stairs and escalators will link the new concourse with platforms and give passengers new routes out of the station, as well as new shops and cafes.

London bridge test event 220816Some Transport Focus staff visited the new concourse at the weekend and we will be visiting again mid-September to see how passengers are faring.

Top changes are:
• three new platforms (7, 8 and 9) for Southeastern services
• new escalators, stairs and lifts for easy access to/from upper concourse (platforms 10-15) to the street level concourse and platforms, benefiting Southern and Thameslink passengers
• new ticket office and self-service machines
• new station entrances along St Thomas Street, with wider pedestrian access and new shops.

Throughout construction work Network Rail has kept the station open, starting on the south side of the station and working in phases to build the new platforms and concourse below.

Over the bank holiday weekend and the days that follow, the construction site will move away from the Southern and future Thameslink platforms and focus on the north of the station. This means platforms 1 to 3, where Southeastern trains to Cannon Street currently run, will close until January 2018.

For details of which services will be affected, please see the Southeastern website.

Don’t forget to keep a log of your travel experiences using the app – click here to find out how to download it.

From the app

angry

 

“Delays, overcrowded trains. I feel like Jeremy Corbyn.”

“Train was on time but it was short form meaning squashed cramped conditions. not informed as usual.”

 

bored

 

“Arrived 15 minutes late again. Missed connection so had to walk the last leg from Brighton to London Road Brighton. Pretty much a standard situation now. Always at least 15 minutes late. Always miss connection. No recourse for that last inconvenience.”

 

frustrated

 

“My train this morning is cancelled due to strike timetable my train this evening is delayed and so is the connection train a total of 45 mins added in total to my day.”

“No air conditioning, train at back of long queue after problems out of Victoria.”

“Late again. like yesterday and the day before and the week before and the month before ……you get the idea.”

happy

 

“Train on time and running smoothly, without incident. New train – seating is uncomfortable as train appears to be like a tube train rather than commuter train.”

“Hassle free. Only a few minutes late but that’s standard!”

 

indifferent

 

 

 

“Usual 10/15 minute delay.”

“Same old story. Giving money to a company I detest.”

“Same overcrowding as usual.”

 

 

relaxed

“Uneventful relaxed journey.”

 

 

 

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“Resentment towards the company taking my money.”

 

Today the ‘wrong sort of train’ caused disruption for Southern Rail commuters.

A train was travelling on a line which required a connection to overhead wires without the appropriate connection. As it couldn’t progress any further down the route the train was temporarily stranded resulting in delays on other services.

Govia Thameslink passengers are continuing to sign up to our app, click here to see how you can take part. Thanks to Hove and Portslade MP, Peter Kyle, for spreading the message further and telling his constituents about how they can share their experiences.

Peter Kyle MP travel diary app

Travel tales

Transport Focus Board member Isabel said:

“I arrived Gipsy Hill 11.22am for 11.29am train, showing delayed by 1 minute. Arrived Victoria 12am, 4 minutes behind schedule.
“Arrived Victoria 5.12pm, next train to Gipsy Hill at 5.22pm already at platform. Arrived Gipsy Hill on schedule.”

From the app

angry

“It’s late arriving as usual and in line with the last few MONTHS maybe even YEARS of taking this train and I’m pig sick of it Southern. You provide a terrible service. I despise you.”

 

 

frustrated

 

“Every day it is delayed in to London and home in the evening.”

 

 

 

indifferent

“Just the commute!”

“I caught a late running train which was earlier than my usual train however my connection was running a few minutes late.”

“Train packed but was on time.”

“Just loath using the train due to southern mgmt. Price increase annoys me.”

happy

“The train left on time and arrived on time.”

 

 

 

 

bored

 

“Inevitable 15-20 min delay which somehow seems acceptable as we cannot get compensation.”

“Boiling hot train 20 minutes after the one I should be on.”

“Standing all the way. 8 coaches instead of 12.”

“Late departing station, late arrival.”

relaxed

“Ok.”

 

 

 

 

stressed

“Issues with the train doors delayed the train by 15 minutes during the journey.”

The RMT union has announced Southern staff are to stage a 48 hour strike on 7 and 8 September in the long-running dispute over the role of guards. We continue to urge both sides to get together to resolve things as soon as possible for the relief of embattled commuters.

 Southern Rail strike

Travel tales

Transport Focus staff member Phil had an eventful journey this morning. Phil said:

“My train, the 8.07am Thornton Heath to London Bridge only had four coaches not usual eight. The driver apologised for the short formation but said that he did not know the reason. He assumed that the other unit had broken down before entering service.”

The shorter train meant there was serious overcrowding on Phil’s train and many passengers left behind at later stations. This means that they might have had a 46 or 60 minute wait for the next train due to the timetable changes.

Phil’s train ran more or less to time however. Booked assistance was waiting but at the wrong point on platform as it was expected in a coach which wasn’t there.

Phil then had a very long wait for bus and arrived at the office at 9.50am. All in all Phil’s journey was 70 minutes longer than usual due to the revised timetable.

From the app

angry

 

“Train cancelled for apparent shortage of train crew again! Any reason why they cannot recruit if it is happening so often?”

 

 

frustrated

 

 

“Trains cancelled in rush hour, others late running.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“Uneventful journey.”

 

 

 

happy

 

“Ran to time with usual standing time for padded timetable.”

“Normal journey.”

 

 

bored“I feel like my normal train won’t ever be reinstated.”

“Late, as per usual. I’m not sure this train has got into the station at its booked time for the last year.”

“Somehow it seems to be acceptable to be regularly 10 mins late.”

 

 

 

The countdown at London Bridge has begun to the opening of the first section of new concourse. You can read more about the redevelopment here.

London bridge test event 220816

Three Transport Focus staff attended an event on Saturday aimed at testing the first section of the new concourse and will be feeding back some constructive points to Network Rail.

Travel tales

This morning Transport Focus staff member Phil was commuting into London from Thornton Heath. While he was waiting on the platform Phil monitored the progress of a number of trains including the following services from Thornton Heath to Victoria:

Due                        Departed

7.42                        7.47

7.53                        7.58

8.03                        8.06

8.12                        8.25*

*according to Customer Information Systems when his train left late.

Announcements about electricity problems in the Caterham area which may have had some bearing on the delays.

Phil said: “My train (8.07am to London Bridge) left two minutes late but arrived on time. My assistance was there waiting for me today. I reached office around 9.30am. However as a result of having to get a different train on the revised timetable I have lost 50 minutes of my day”.

From the app

angry

“Delayed in both directions again, I need my life back and to be able to make commitments I can keep.”

“Train cancelled due to lack of train crew.”

 

 

frustrated

“At Crystal Palace we were told a car had hit a bridge and we couldn’t move until Network Rail had inspected which would take some time. I am trying to get home now at least 6 miles by bus.”

“Train terminated at West Croydon due to engineering works. Long walk to bus stop for rail replacement bus which never turned up. Had to get a much slower regular bus home which took ages and would have been charged extra.”

 

indifferent

“Journey ok. Doors didn’t open at Portslade which meant some people went onto Hove when they didn’t want to. Ticket machines not working so people cross and missing trains. Guard unable to process all ticket purchases. People told they would not have problems at their destination.”

“All went well but never trust it anymore.”

“I had to get a later train as the train that goes from Lrb to Btn is cancelled on the new timetable.”

relaxed

“Very relaxing journey.”

“Much easier.”

 

 

happy

 

“Uneventful but on time for once.”

 

 

 

Today staff at Govia Thameslink Railway are voting on whether to take strike action over changes to ticket office opening hours. The result should be announced in the next fortnight.

For more on this issue and our response to the proposals, click here.

Meanwhile National Express has been using the recent performance issues as an initiative to encourage passengers to try coach as an alternative transport from London to Brighton.

The ‘rail is a drag’ campaign saw drag queens La Voix, Vanity von Glow and Nancy Clench at Victoria station during rush hour bearing placards with slogans like ‘We will survive Southern Rail’.

Travel tales

This week’s case study is a female commuter aged between 25 and 34. She travels to work using Thameslink services between Streatham and City Thameslink.

19 Aug case study diary

Board member Isabel had to reschedule a meeting after an incident involving emergency services on her morning train yesterday. She found out from another passenger en route to the station.

The journey back from City Thameslink was busy and slightly late. However, at Herne Hill, her connecting train was very crowded – just four carriages at a peak time. The driver apologised but it is very frustrating for passengers – colleague Sharon had a similar experience on Southern today (see below).

Isabel notes that she’s learned her lesson: “After being unable to board this exact same train the other day due to overcrowding I’m going to stand at platform edge to board as early as possible. Must be vigilant and assertive.”

Transport Focus policy manager Sharon returned to Brighton from London today, at lunchtime and says: “Surely Southern could help themselves and passengers by providing more than 4 carriages on 1.20pm to Brighton on a busy August Friday. Especially having just cancelled the 1.17pm service along same mainline to east and west coastways!”


From the app

angry

“Yet again the 15.47 cancelled train was apparently due to a shortage of train crew. How can they make such a statement 3 hours before the departure time? Yet again, managed cancellations.”
“Changed trains at Norwood junction and 2nd train was delayed.”

 

 

bored

 

“Have to get a later train as my usual connection from Lrb to Btn is not running under the new timetable.
“My old train 20 minutes earlier doesn’t run any more so I have to hang around at work till the temporary timetable one. It’s theft of my life by stealth.”

 

frustrated

“Arrived at Clapham Junction. Train cancelled. No explanation given for cancellation. Waited 30 minutes for next train which was delayed too. Platform dangerously overcrowded. Especially irritating to see this at Clapham where nonstop SW trains seem to come and go on the other platforms without any issues.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“My normal train is still running. It ran pretty much to time.”
“Usual annoying 5 min delay, can never be on time!”
“Train was late & delayed at Gatwick.”
“Had to stand for part of journey.”
“All went well but I feel on edge about travelling by train now. Don’t trust them any more.”

relaxed
“Much easier and quicker to get to work when I stay in London.”
“All went smoothly, only 4 minutes late.”

 

 

Don’t forget to sign up and share your experiences.

 

Our passenger manager Linda McCord is now joining the monthly ‘alliance board’ meetings between Govia Thameslink and Network Rail, aimed at improving performance and reducing the daily issues faced by passengers.

Meanwhile this morning passengers on a Tattenham Corner to Victoria service were shocked when a ceiling panel fell down in the carriage.

 

18 Aug Ceiling tweet

Earlier this week, the figure was released for next year’s fare increases. We called at the time for Southern passengers to have their fares frozen. The Guardian produced a table of projected fare increases:

Guardian 160816


From the app

angry

“Almost 40min delay, no reasons why, no station announcements and no suggestions of alternatives.”
“Delays again, I can’t plan any life during the week.”
“Train was 20 mins late back into Brighton due to a speed restriction.”
“Delayed as usual.”

 

 

bored

 

“Journey left on time, but slow though stations and 5mins delay.”
“The temporary timetable has meant that far less of my trains have been cancelled but they never run to time and are consistently late.”

 

happy

 

“Drama free. Just a couple of minutes late and plenty of standing room.”

 

 

 

indifferent

 

“Train was late.”
“Everything was fine.”
“Train was on time but noisy passengers from East Croydon made me retreat into my headphones.”
“This route has been so badly affected by the dispute that I feel punch drunk by it. My overwhelming feeling has been anger and frustration at the money I spend every month for the lack of service. This route should be 50% cheaper in order to keep us in line with other European countries and it provides the worst service in Europe.”

relaxed
“All fine and train on time.”
“Train was on time, or as near as I can be!”
“Good journey it was on time and spare seats so I was able to get some work done.”

 

 

stressed

“Delayed on arriving at dest.”

 

 

 

Don’t forget to sign up and share your experiences.

The Sun has a story online today about a disgruntled commuter hacking a display board at Blackfriars station.

Meanwhile, responses from our app have highlighted that some commuters are still not aware that Southern passengers can claim Delay Repay (for more than 30 minutes delay) even if the train is on time but too crowded for them to get on.

Click here to find out more.

Travel tales

Our Board member Isabel had a punctual trip into London yesterday at 8.49am and even got a seat. She couldn’t get on a crowded return service, and the following one was late. She says: “I had to wait another 15 minutes for a four minute ride and 15 minute walk home. So 75 minutes to consume 21 minutes of train travel.”

 


From the app

angry

 

“Another 15 minute delay.”

 

 

 

bored

 

“Slow journey, too many stops.”
“Late train.”
“Delays meant I was running late.”

 

frustrated

 

“1908 from CLJ to HRH delayed 1916 cancelled.”

 

 

happy

 

“8:49 shown on NRE on time and actuality. got one remaining seat in carriage.”

“No problems with train this morning, got a seat too which is unusual as usually lots of southern customers end up getting the train due to cancelled southern trains.”

 

indifferent

 

“Heater was on for the whole journey-my left side was baking!”
“Arrived late. it doesnt matter if there is a temporary timetable in place this train is incapable of arriving at its booked time.”

 

relaxed
“Only a couple of mins late on first train. No missed connections.”

 

Don’t forget to sign up and share your experiences.

Today the Government announced that rail fares are set to rise next year by 1.9 per cent. This has been determined by the July Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation figure. Our chief executive, Anthony Smith, responded saying:

“For some rail passengers any fare rise is going to feel unfair. Many commuters, in London and the south east in particular, have been suffering poor performance and rising prices will seem wrong.

Transport Focus is calling for Government to freeze fare increases for Southern passengers, and to quickly introduce the promised 15 minute Delay Repay trigger and one-off compensation for badly affected passengers. Passengers are playing their part by pouring over £9 billion into the industry each year: the industry must now deliver on its promises of much more consistent, better performance.”

Tweet 160816
The RMT union has also balloted station staff across Govia Thameslink Railways with 70 per cent of station staff voting for strike action. The result will now be considered by the union executive. We are calling on both the RMT and Southern to sort this out once and for all.

Travel tales

Our Board member Isabel said: “I checked for the latest information the previous night and 5.30am this morning. There was a warning that a lack of attending workers before 7am meant some trains may be cancelled. No more certainty than that, so I still have to plan to leave house at 6.30am. I am choosing the 6.45am train in case of cancellations or delays so that I still have one fall back to get to my 8am meeting on time. The 6.45am train from Sydenham Hill was on time.”

“The 7:01 from Herne Hill showing delayed as of 6:54am. At 6.58am it was showing expected at 7:04. The train arrived at City Thameslink 7.17am instead of 7.04am. Listed as the 7.14am train so I’m guessing they skipped a train.”

“For my return journey I arrived Victoria 4.43pm. The 4.49pm to Gipsy Hill was showing the platform already. I arrived at Gipsy Hill at 5.15pm, so two minutes late.


From the app

angry

“Slow running/delayed.”

“Connection missed with no announcement or reasoning.”

“More delays.”

“Delayed train and very busy. Standing only.”

 

bored

 

“Journey unremarkable.”

“Train delayed for no apparent reason. Annoyed they run trains fine during the strike but not the rest of the time!”

 

 

frustrated

 

“No staff at Worthing at all so had to buy ticket at London Bridge which delayed me (particularly annoying as I got to Worthing earlier to give time to buy ticket).”

 

 

happy

“Train was on time without delays!”

 

 

 

 

indifferent

“Had to drive home as morning train was cancelled.”

“All went fairly well today, not too delayed or just for once.”

“My normal train is one of the cancelled ones in the temp timetable.”

“Ok”

“Got a seat but train was a bit late as usual.”

relaxed
“My train ran on time.”

“16.49 train immediately available upon my arrival at Victoria. Mostly on time, arrived at Gipsy Hill 2 minutes behind schedule.”

 

 

Don’t forget to sign up and share your experiences.

It has been reported that talks between Southern and the RMT union have once again broken down. Whether that means more strikes on the horizon is yet to be seen. It is absolutely not acceptable that passengers should be put through more strike misery, so we are calling on both parties to sort this out once and for all.

However, we were pleased to see that Southern has reinstated a limited service on the Watford-Clapham Junction route, which had no trains at all under the original temporary timetable.

Meanwhile at Parliament, MPs have set up an all party group to keep an eye on the Southern performance issue. It will be co-chaired by Sir Nicholas Soames MP (Mid Sussex, Conservative) and Peter Kyle MP (Hove, Labour). We will be making contact with them to feed in our research and passengers’ views we have collated on this issue.

Travel stories

Our Board member Theo sent ‘a little update from the misery line’. After middle of the day off-peak services were already reduced in frequency, he then found a series of cancellations and delays without notice or explanation. As the most recent was the 13.42 to Three Bridges via Gatwick. He said: “Glad I am not going on my holidays and relying on Thameslink!”

Sally H filled in our online feedback form (see below). She travels from Worthing into London Victoria.

“Just thought I would share Southern’s travel alerts for today:

Your alert for your journey London Victoria (VIC) to Worthing (WRH) service, departing on 12 Feb 16 at 18:17 and arriving at 19:41 has now been reactivated. It may have been suspended because of a temporary change to the timetable e.g. because of a bank holiday or during a period of service disruption.

Your alert for your journey London Victoria (VIC) to Worthing (WRH) service, departing on 8 Jul 16 at 17:38 and arriving on 12 Feb 16 at 19:01 has now been reactivated. It may have been suspended because of a temporary change to the timetable e.g. because of a bank holiday or during a period of service disruption.

Does this mean if you get a Southern train we can all go back in time to before the disruption started.

So far today my train in this morning was 20 mins late and I dread to think what it will be like this evening.”

From the app

angry

“Confusing information, cancelled train and crowded train when eventually got on.”

bored

“Uncomfortable train, delayed by about 10 mins, felt like it crawled all the way back.”

“Traffic.”

“It was ok but train v over crowded.”

relaxed

“Train marginally late but v busy.”

“All ran on time. Quite crowded for the summer hols.”

“All went as scheduled.”

frustrated

“Late again! no announcement, just slow running, no reason given.”

“Because the 0609hrs dep from Bexhill was cancelled due to train fault and it was only cancelled about 0610hrs so again no time to plan ahead and had to go home to get car and was late for work.”

happy

“Train was on time!”

“Went as expected, quiet on the train, and nearly on time.”

indifferent

“Ok journey, again a delay at Herne Hill with no reason why.”

“Went ok train running about 5 minutes late.”

“Train was late. Delayed through Balcombe tunnel.”

“Train ran to time but timetable is so padded it means lots of standing time waiting to get into platforms.”

Now that the strike is officially over, it is critical that Southern gets services back to normal for Monday. Passenger feedback over the last few days has shown that people are understanding when services can’t return to normal straightaway – but their patience will run out soon.

Meanwhile we are hearing of passengers finding it difficult to claim the enhanced compensation on offer. Given that Southern has records of all customers who have already claimed regular compensation, we would like to see the company simply automate the payout once a customer reaches their 12th successful claim. Now that would be rebuilding trust – giving out cash without needing to be asked (again)!

We have talked to colleagues at Govia Thameslink about making this possible. Although we understand there are issues to be resolved with the Department for Transport and the IT systems involved, we urge all concerned to press on and deliver this for passengers.

Travel stories

This man, aged 55-64, travels to work between Brighton and Clapham Junction.

Case study 12 Aug

From the app

angry

“Long wait at Brighton to change. Passengers had to wait for driver to arrive.”

 

 

 

bored

 

“0806 from Haywards Heath to Victoria, Short formed train and late.”

 

 

relaxed

 

“It was on time.”

“Finally back to normal journey, train on time and nearly empty so quite pleasant.”

 

frustrated

“My usual route was restored for a few services, however they were neither advertised on the Southern website as restored and not running after 1730. I had to still leave my work early and chance travelling to train station as staff could not confirm if train was running. train was there but display boards blank. usual chaos.”

“My new usual train is delayed by rather conveniently (for compensation) by 29 minutes. The other trains are delayed, severely. There is a rare single train running in time and it’s packed to the rafters. Ridiculous. As I’ve written this the train has now been cancelled. I’ve only been on this app 3 minutes. Knew it was too good to be true.”

happy

“All went fine..nice surprise.”

“Happy  train ran to time this morning.”

“Happy  I changed at Sutton to get a quicker journey overall and both trains were running on time.”

“Despite the train arriving 9 or 10 minutes late it was only 80% as busy as it usually is.  Perhaps passengers have had enough and are staging a protest of their own.”

indifferent

 

“Journey was ok, a few mins delayed and got very busy.”

“Train stopped at Herne Hill for a period with no announcement why. my train is a few minutes delayed.”

“This is how journey should be.”

 

Travel tales – from our app

 

indifferent

“It was fine. Again no seats.”

“Delays and cancellations but i was aware of them.”

 

 

bored

“Because despite calling off the strike, Southern still aren’t able to resume normal services for a couple of days! So diverted to Victoria again.”

 

 

 

angry“I had to stand for nearly one hour in cramped conditions. I was unable to move and did not have anything to hold onto to steady myself. I was in pain by the end of my journey, at which point I had to take a longer underground journey to my office.”

“Delayed even in a strike timetable, station staff knew nothing.  can this company get nothing right.”

 

happy

“was ok journey. on time and not too busy.”

“All fine.”

 

 

 

relaxed

“The train was on time and I got a seat so no complaints really.”

“I  left home late due to dropping children at summer camp and was expecting to catch a train that would get me into work late. In fact there was a train at the right time that left only 90 seconds late. better than expected.”

 

It has just been announced that the Southern strike is suspended tomorrow and Friday. While we welcome this, we know that services likely won’t return to ‘normal’ overnight and so still recommend that you check before you travel.

We met senior managers at Govia Thameslink yesterday. We discussed our online focus on the service, using your input, stories and tweets. The operator feels it is useful as has highlighted the need for better Passenger Assist, and the need to ensure passengers are not able to buy tickets for services that are not running. So your stories and diary entries are being listened to and acted upon.

Other updates from the meeting
The amended timetable will now be used until 2 September. The company continues to review opportunities to add services back into the timetable. Some that have already been added back include Peckham Rye and Seaford, and from Monday 15 there will be more peak trains between Clapham and Watford.

The priority is clearly to revert back to the normal timetable as soon as the company has confidence that it can deliver a service passengers can have confidence in. It is keen to avoid the last-minute cancellations that caused so much misery to passengers and led to the introduction of the amended timetable in the first place.

We challenged the company to tell us how this was would be achieved. The answer included moving on with discussions with the union, and supporting onboard staff to return to work.

We have been clear that the operator must be prepared for normal commuter volumes at the end of summer.

We have been pleased to see the operator encouraging passengers to claim compensation for delays. Click these links for more information on delay repay, improved strike compensation and enhanced compensation.

There has been a significant increase in delay repay claims, partly of course due to more disruption, but also as a result of better passenger communications on the topic.

Travel tales
Our Board member Isabel had a reasonable journey on Thameslink from Sydenham Hill to City Thameslink yesterday. She left lots of spare time in case of cancellations and was only delayed by a minute. She reports that the 7.51am service was: “Standing only but not too crowded.”

However her return journey at afternoon rush hour was plagued by cancellations and trains reappearing in the schedule with no warning.

From the app
Don’t forget to sign up and share your experiences. Lots of angry commuters last night – no surprise as there were problems across the network.

relaxed

 

“Got an early train so it was quieter and ran on time.”

 

 

frustrated

 

“Overcrowded train due to rail strike.”

“Train strike.”

 

 

angry

“The strike… enough said.”
“I was not able to get a train home to Redhill. Gatwick Airport was as close as I was able to get and then I had to take a taxi.”
“Had to leave London early due to complete stop of trains early evening.”
“I took this train as my usual train was cancelled due to industrial action. This train should have been 12 carriages but was only 8 so was very overcrowded. There were no seats available and even the standing room in the aisles was a crush.”

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

 

“Direct 16:49 train from City Thameslink to Sydenham Hill first reported cancelled, then from Blackfriars, then delayed. then cancelled. then showed up at Blackfriars 15 minutes after scheduled time.”

 

bored

 

“Delayed departure, even more delayed on arrival. Plus had to travel to Victoria due to strike as London Bridge trains aren’t running.”

 

 

indifferent

My train was delayed, no reason why was given, it was very busy as usual and very few sets available were taken at my stop. the train only started 2 stations before and no seats available…”
“No seats but actually on time.”
“On time. No seat but plenty of standing room- driver really cheerful and explained why there was a very short delay.”

 

 

happy

“Todays morning journey ok and on time. i didn’t enter last nights journey, but that was delayed by 30-45 mins.”
“All was fine.”

This afternoon we are meeting Govia Thameslink Railway to discuss progress. We will be feeding back the many stories and tweets you have shared with us.

We also shared some of your stories in our media interviews yesterday – to watch our chief executive Anthony on BBC News, click here (the item on Southern is at about 9 minutes in).

Anthony (pictured below) also appeared on Sky News yesterday.

Anthony on Sky 8 Aug

Travel tales

Yesterday our head of communications had to get a cab (in rush hour) to a hospital appointment as the alternative route to a cancelled Southern service involved multiple changes. No extra time added to the journey but it did cost over £10 extra.

Meanwhile an angry commuter fed back through the app that they are having to work shorter days due to the strike, so next week will have to work off the backlog. Meanwhile the trains that they can get are ‘uncomfortably rammed’. This is costing around £400 a month.

Today was the first day of the five-day strike on Southern services.

We have taken part in various media interviews to highlight the impact on passengers, including much of the information you have shared with us over the weeks. So keep the stories coming!

The strike brings new misery to those relying on Southern services. We know that passengers do value having a visible staff presence on the train, but it doesn’t matter what they are doing as long as they are there when needed. We have urged both sides to get together to resolve things as soon as possible for the relief of embattled commuters.

Meanwhile we heard that Huw Merriman (MP for Bexhill and Battle) has been making video diaries of his journeys on Southern during the strike. They are available on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HuwMerriman

Travel experiences

Our policy advisor Dan managed to get to work without too much trouble, despite the strike, albeit more than 45 minutes later than usual. He said: “The train was less busy than normal when it arrived. While congested, Three Bridges wasn’t too bad. Clear information about departing trains. Am now sitting in a declassified first class carriage on the way to Victoria.”

Our Board member Isabel travelled from Gipsy Hill to and from Victoria on Sunday, reporting reasonably punctual trains despite a number of pauses at intermediate stations on the outward journey.

Travel diaries

Quite a few ‘happy’ respondents this time – though one said it was because they were ‘only a couple of minutes late’ which suggests an element of resignation.

happy“The train arrived on time, I got a seat, it wasn’t delayed en route and we arrived almost on time.”
“It was only a couple of minutes late.”
“Decided to jump on bus – got a seat all very relaxed.”
“Train was quiet and I got a seat. We were held outside Blackfriars for a while, but the driver quickly explained why.”

 

bored

“Pretty standard although overcrowded to start.”
“The first train was at 07:50 but my usual train would be 07:25. Got the bus instead and had to pay.”

 

 

frustrated “Train cancelled, not enough staff had to get the next one.”
“As per usual 14:45 Gatwick express cancelled due to lack of staff… an ongoing situation that originally was going to be over around mid-May when alleged new drivers were to finish training. The situation is still happening with frustrating regularity.”

 

 

angry

 

“Fast trains from Horsham cancelled, unable to travel.”

 

 

 

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

 

“Impending 5 day train strike starting tomorrow.”

 

 

 

 

relaxed

 

“The first day of the strike, and while the trains was standing room only, it wasn’t much worse than usual. The train arrived within minutes of being on time.”

 

At the time of writing, it looks likely that the strike on Southern will go ahead and so the amended timetable should be up on journey planners from Saturday night.

Last week performance stayed fairly steady with dips on Tuesday and Thursday, linked to the sinkhole at Forest Hill in the first instance. Social media chatter increases on the days with performance issues (see chart) but overall the number of tweets on this issue is starting to drop.

 

 

performance vs tweets 5 August

We have used the right-time statistics here – percentage of trains arriving at the final destination on time. The PPM figures (percentage of trains arriving within five minutes of the scheduled time) score more highly, suggesting that many of the delays are less than five minutes. However, we know from our travel diaries that even a few minutes of delay can be enough to cause real problems for people.

Case study

This lady, aged 35-44, travels to and from work between Redhill and London Bridge. She spotted the travel diary app via Twitter.

Travel diary 5 August

Travel diaries

happy

 

“All was fine.”
“Happy it was on time but there were only 8 carriages.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“Train was on time but only 8 coaches.  Whilst I got a seat I had someone’s bum pressed up against my shoulder for most of the journey.”

“Delays but not too significant.”

“To my surprise, given the problems yesterday, the train left Redhill on time. However it was delayed going into East Croydon and slow through Forest Hill so it arrived late at London Bridge. I got a seat no problem as it ran empty from Reigate to Redhill due to no conductor available at Reigate.”

 

bored

 

“The train was delayed and there were a number of cancelled services.”

 

 

 

relaxed

 

“Train wasn’t rammed and was more or less on time.”

 

 

 

angry

 

“Train cancelled en route and alternate route had to be made. Initially incorrect and then no communication provided.”

 

 

Southern passengers once again faced a ‘hole’ in their rail service.

A second sinkhole was discovered in the same area, near Forest Hill, as the one discovered last month. Some lines were closed as a safety measure.

Although most people are philosophical about this disruption, some social media users expressed their frustration in a humorous way:

Forest Hole 4 Aug

Twitter 1

We also hear that commuter groups are planning a protest march to the Department for Transport next Wednesday.

After yesterday’s update on websites, we were pleased to see that National Rail Enquiries now has some helpful info on its homepage.

NRE 4 August

Clicking on the link provides more detailed information on impacted services.  More helpfully there is also a dedicated area of the website explaining delay repay and what the different delay thresholds are for each train operator. It also provides links to each operator’s Passenger’s Charter and to the delay compensation area of each website. It’s simple, but hopefully effective.

Travel diaries

happy

“It was on time.”

 

 

 

 

frustrated

“Luckily I was listening to the news so I heard that there was train disruption due to track inspections, meaning I had to plan another journey. That journey has only 2 trains an hour, so I will be late for work again, this is the first week in a new job so this is extra bad.”

 

 

indifferent

 

“The train was delayed but it worked out in my favour as I was running late.”

“The train was late and I wasn’t sure if I would get my bus connection.”

 

 

bored

 

“First train cancelled messing up whole journey”

“Temporary timetable has not affected my trains but the trains still can’t run to time

“The trains weren’t very frequent and they had to add extra stops to the train I did get which meant it took even longer to get home.”

relaxed

 

“Train wasn’t rammed and was more or less on time.”

 

 

 

angry

“Delays again.”

 

 

 

 

National Rail Enquiries and the Southern Rail website are now updated so that journey planner queries up to August 26 reflect the temporary emergency timetable. We had pressed the company repeatedly to do this, as even at the end of business yesterday (Tuesday) the journey planner was still selling tickets for later in the month on the original timetable. There had been a warning on both sites, but we were concerned that many would miss it.

However the journey planners do not yet contain details of the timetable covering the five-day strike that looks set to take place next week.

We understand industry processes do not allow for a huge degree of flexibility, making it difficult to ‘revert’ back to the current timetable should the strike be called off, but we have urged Southern to make this information available as soon as possible. Passengers want, and need, to plan their journeys next week in order to be able to work out whether they can get to work or not. Not knowing for certain or not with less than a week to go will be hugely frustrating for many.

Travel diaries

A number of negative entries for yesterday – but one contented commuter told us that they slept all the way home!

happy

“It was a pleasant but busy ride.”

 

 

 

 

“My train d“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”ue at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“Signal problems- limited information from driver and in the end after sitting at elephant for 10 minutes without any idea of what might happen and when- so most people just got off to find other ways of getting to work! And it was raining.”

“The Portsmouth Harbour train was already full and standing as it left Brighton, even before getting to Hove. Having just a four coach Class 313 on for an evening rush hour commuter service is just a joke. It seems the trains tend to be longer when services are less busy! There was of course no alternative connection due to the Southampton cancellations in the emergency timetable.”

frustrated

 

“50 mins late arriving at destination. Severe overcrowding & no information.”

“Delayed again”

 

 

indifferent

 

“Very busy but on time at least.”

“Minor delays add to frustration during my commute but I feel powerless as there is no alternative.”

 

bored

 

“Just didn’t go to schedule. One train missed then catching up.”

“Having only one service an hour into Brighton available makes the commute to work rather stressful – missing the train by a few minutes makes me over 60 minutes late to my client in Hove.”

 

relaxed

“Slept most of the way home”

 

 

 

 

Passenger stories

“Tuesday 2 August, 8.03 Thornton Heath to London Victoria departed four minutes later. These changes have extended my journey by 50 minutes.”

* * * * *

“My journey home from Victoria to Horsham last night was pretty much on time, and because of the school holidays there was plenty of space. However, for the third night running the booking office was closed earlier than it should have been (at least an hour earlier) leaving me unable to exchange my delay repay vouchers, which have been building up over the past month. I was also unable to buy the car park tickets I needed for later on this week. One of the helpful (Southern, not agency) gate line staff who has worked at the station for more than six years advised that the booking office was ‘short staffed’.  I didn’t press him for further detail as he was busy operating the remote gate line at the back of the station and trying to sell tickets to those who couldn’t figure out the ticket machines. Not getting the compensation in cash in the first place is frustrating, not being able to then exchange the voucher is more so.”

* * * * *

Travel diaries

See below for examples of the feedback we’ve got from passengers using our travel diary app. We continue to feed these through to the operators and use them to illustrate our points about the need for information and compensation.

bored “My train was late again, only by 5 mins, but that’s another 5 mins stood in the rain for another 5 mins, all the tubes are busier as I’m just that bit later and it accumulates to being late for work.”
Forest Hill to London Bridge

“Delays due to signalling and loads more people crammed on.”
Streatham to City Thameslink

 

indifferent

 

“Standing room only. Had to get an earlier train because of the timetable.”
Shoreham to Brighton

 

 

happy

 

“The train left on time.”
Hassocks to Brighton

 

 

relaxed

 

“Since the temporary timetable started, I have not had a single journey cancelled. Only problem has been overcrowding due to the massive numbers of language students travelling to and from Brighton.”
Eastbourne to Moulsecoomb

We are working with Govia Thameslink on its information for passengers. At present, a  message on the National Rail Enquiries and Southern sites warns that the results generated are only correct for journeys up until this Friday (5 August). We believe passengers should be able to plan much further ahead, beyond the end of the week.

Given that there is a five-day strike called for next week as well, passengers will be wondering if they can even get to work, so an update as soon as possible is critical.

Previously the operator has said that timetables are only added shortly in advance in case it is able to add any services back in or there is a need for more changes. We disagree, and have pressed for certainty now.

Travel diaries

A mixed picture from passengers using our travel diary app today – a few examples below. As usual, we will be feeding these through to the operators and using them to illustrate our points about the need for information and compensation.

bored
“Pretty dull, usual crowding, people’s backsides in your face and sitting on your shoulder.”

 

happy
“My train ran almost on time this morning and I had a seat.”

 


“It was 15 minutes late.”

 

relaxed
“Journey uneventful – left on time arrived on time.”

 

Social media

As performance seems to have settled down, there have been fewer #passengervoice tweets. We summed up this weekend’s here:

From our feedback form (see below)…

Gary travels into London from Brighton. He reports no improvements with the emergency timetable.

He told us: “Many more ad hoc cancellations due to no staff and no info ever provided. Beyond that there are multiple train failures and severe delays.”

And he added: “It’s getting worse GTR’s franchise needs to be removed and customers properly compensated. Shameful that they don’t advertise their enhanced compensation scheme too.”

Mr Aslett, a Southwich passenger, said:

“When Southern introduced the emergency time table on July 11th they said that it would operate from Monday to Friday with a normal service on weekends.

“The two weekends since then has seen the West Coastway service decimated on Saturdays with cancellations and some stations getting just one train per hour instead of the usual four and there are additional cancellations. It is worse than before the emergency timetables were introduced.”

And John C, who travels from Goring-by-Sea into Chichester, got in touch to share the impact of regular disruption. He says: “One impact of the new timetable is that I have stopped making many trips for leisure purposes. I know that I’m not alone in this. That might not seem as seem critical as journeys to work, but this must hit businesses in the leisure and tourism sector.”

Staff experiences

Our senior policy advisor Phil has had better service from his pre-booked passenger assist of late. However, some utility works mean that his regular bus to the station is affected. Now in order to access a station that is served by a bus to the door, and has step-free access, he is going to have to set off even earlier and travel in the opposite direction (paying a higher fare as he will cross a zone boundary) to get to work at around the usual time.

Southern update 29 July

Feedback from Twitter

Twitter - 29 July

* * * * *

Passenger stories

The 17.25 City Thameslink to Streatham was on time and formed for the first time of an 8-car class 387. It is an unparalleled luxury on that route. The 18.04 Streatham to Norbury was on time, but was disappointingly  formed of the usual dowdy class 455.”

“The 8.03 Thornton Heath to Victoria, departed at three-minutes late, which in turn delayed the departure of the 8.07 Thornton Heath to London Bridge. My assistance on the platform was waiting.  A long wait for the bus and heavy traffic meant an arrival in the office slightly later than usual at 9.35.  This takes 50-minutes longer than the journey before.”

* * * * *

Feedback from the app

Passengers continue to share their experiences during the current disruption via our travel diary app. Today’s feedback highlighted a number of different emotions:

happy

“Train was on time, and had both a guard and a driver. :-)”

frustrated

“Don’t know the cause of the delay, so don’t know if it is to do with Southern or not.”

“Stopped between stations - driver had no idea why.”

“Stopped between stations – driver had no idea why.”

“Thameslink extra packed. Having to leave people behind at Elephant & Castle. So hot and people are getting angry.”

“Thameslink extra packed. Having to leave people behind at Elephant & Castle. So hot and people are getting angry.”

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

“My train due at 08.56 arrived 6 minutes late which means I will miss both the connecting train and bus at Brighton and will be 10 to 15 minutes late to work.”

 

Diary app - 29 July

Click the image above to see one passenger’s travel diary over a week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to read more on how to use our travel diary app.

The RMT union announced a five-day strike on Southern beginning on 8 August.

You can read the RTM’s strike announcement here and Southern’s response here.

Telegraph tweet 28 July

Southern and the RMT must get back around the table as soon as possible and resolve this matter without bringing services to a standstill.

Feedback from the app

Passengers continue to share their experiences during the current disruption via our travel diary app. Today’s feedback highlighted a number of different emotions:

frustrated

“Train delay and cancellations due to power supply issue caused my journey to be delayed by around 30 minutes. Slow progress once train got going and very little customer information from the train staff. Appalling service as I’ve come to expect as it happens all too often.”

worried

“Stopped between stations – driver had no idea why.”

bored

“Train was late and had to run for connection.”
indifferent

“Train was delayed about ten minutes. It’s been a long week.”
relaxed

“The train came on time and arrived at its destination on time. I got a seat.”

Other comments included:

  • “It was nearly on time.”
  • “The train arrived on time and I was able to get a seat.”
  • “Indifferent”
  • “All was fine but still having to get an earlier train as the next one is too full. Due to the reduced timetable.”
  • “All was well.”

More disruption looms for commuters with the threat of more strikes on Govia Thameslink services.

The RMT union is balloting station staff members, part of a row over ticket office changes.

When the changes were first suggested Transport Focus objected on a number of grounds, we will now be monitoring a trial of the new ticket office arrangements.

Travel diaries 

Our policy advisor Dan had an uneventful journey in today. He worked from home yesterday but was still impacted by delays when his wife had a battle to get home.

Disruption from the Gatwick fire meant her train was standing room only, and stopped short of the destination.

The journey included a 10 to 15 minute delay at Merstham while the train she was on waited for a guard.

To make things worse, at Horsham she found the ticket office had closed just before 7pm instead of the 8.20pm advertised on the Southern website. She was due to buy a monthly ticket, starting today but there was no other way for her to buy the ticket and there won’t be time in the morning. She’s now had to buy a day ticket at extra cost.

There was no sign at the ticket office explaining why it had shut early, or whether it was reopening later that day. Station staff were polite, but unable to help.

Head of comms Sara reports a quiet journey home on an early train yesterday, and a busy but uneventful trip into work this morning.

 Feedback from the app

Don’t forget you can share your experiences during the current disruption via our travel diary app. Click here to find out more or sign up for it.

One entry highlights the wayhappy commuters are becoming resigned – the traveller chooses a happy response from the emotional tracker but explains: “It was only 10 mins late.”

 

 

Some other comments were:

  • …it was 20 mins late.
  • No more crowded than usual, arrived on time. Ok journey overall
  • Delays again
  • My usual train was cancelled and I had to travel to Victoria to take an alternative train that was also then cancelled. I then got a delayed train home and arrived nearly 30 mins late so no ability to claim for the inconvenience and delay
  • All ok
  • 4 coach train so completely full. unable to board. no guarantee that the next service 30 mins later would be better. took Southern rail to Victoria. unable to get to tube at Vic due to overcrowding. made my way to Brixton where I was able to get on Vic Line to King’s Cross. Not covered by my season ticket so paying extra.
  • Everything was on time, no drama
  • Had to get on a packed hot overground then jubilee line instead of my usual straightforward single train with a seat. Meaning I’m later into LB so my bus is fuller and there is more traffic so I am even later to work, tired and feel like I need another shower before the day has started.

This morning a fire on a railway line near Gatwick disrupted Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Western Railway services.

The first week of the revised Southern timetable had appeared to show some modest improvements in performance, but the sinkhole last week and now this fire mean that there are still significant issues.

We continue to track the daily performance figures published by Govia Thameslink Railway (see drop down section, below) so you can see how your route is performing over time. At the end of the new timetable period we’ll give an overview of whether performance has improved.

*****

More from commuters

Transport Focus Board member Theo titled his travel diary ‘the cattle truck special’ after a standing-room-only trip in to St Pancras from Harpenden, that left many St Albans passengers unable to board the train at all.

On the return trip he joined the service at Farringdon – eventually, after the first train was cancelled as a crew member was unavailable. He reports: “Standing room only on the next one and full to bursting at St Pancras. Again some unable to get on board. My conviction that Thameslink is a shambles reinforced.”

Our senior policy advisor Phil had another cancelled train (the 8.03 from Thornton Heath to Victoria) which was attributed to vandalism. But the 8.07 was on time and even arrived early, and his regular booked assistance was on the spot waiting for him.

However both insight manager Louise, and head of communications Sara, reported uneventful journeys today. Both agreed that, while their trains were crowded, it was ‘usual crowding’ and nothing unusual.

*****

We are asking commuters to share their experiences during the current disruption via our travel diary app. Click here to find out more or sign up for it.

One passenger told us that he has switched to cycling as a result of the changes:

  • Due to the special timetable with no London Bridge trains from my station, Thameslink trains are too crowded to board. Again made the 3 mile trip to Morden by bike, then took the tube.

Here are a few more entries:

  • I arrived on time.
  • Train journey was roughly on time, I tend not to look at how late (other than for this) the train is unless I know it’s anywhere close to the delay repay trigger. Clock watching just makes the journey more stressful.
  • The service was better today than in previous weeks.
  • Sat outside the station before mine for ages with no explanation – wasn’t in a rush but was a bit frustrating when you’re tired and ready to get home.
  • Arrived at VIC feeling hot, faint and 23 mins late. I was meant to be in work at 9 for a really important meeting and I’m still travelling across London.
  • Problem at Gatwick because of third rail. Am resigned because if it wasn’t this, it would be something else.

And just to illustrate the common themes, we took all the comments from the app over the last day or so and created this word cloud:

word cloud

 

On Friday night Transport Focus’s Phil Wilks travelled from City Thameslink to Streatham on the 17.25 Thameslink service. It was six minutes late for the second day in succession. On this occasion it reached Streatham in time to connect with West Croydon service. That was due to depart at 18.04 but ran one minute late.

This morning the 07.53 Thornton Heath to Victoria ran seven minutes late. The 08.03 Thornton Heath to Victoria was cancelled ‘due to a broken-down train’.  He caught the 08.07 from Thornton Heath to London Bridge. It departed one minute late and arrived at London Bridge three minutes early on platform 14, not 15 where it usually arrives. His expected assistance had gone to platform 15 so took some time to reach him on 14.  Staff also arrived with a ramp for him!  On rereading his booking, it says ‘alighting assistance’.  The confirmations for tomorrow to Friday shows ‘wheelchair’!

* * * * *

On Thursday Transport Focus’s Sara Nelson’s train arrived on time. She was very pleased to travel on a new carriage and managed to get a seat having asked for it (she’s ‘with child’).

* * * * *

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* * * * *

We have launched a travel diary app to make it easy for passengers to share their experiences of using Govia Thameslink Rail services during the current disruption caused by the temporary Southern Rail timetable. Here are a few entries:

“My usual train has been removed (7.46), so the next one is 7.52, but with the preceding train cancelled and normally the 7:52 is standing room only, I got the preceding train, 7.15. I saw that it was on time but he 7.31 that I could catch and change at Hove was running late which means I would have missed the connection. The 7.25 was in time, but short formation. At my stop it was standing-room only and the train doesn’t stay long enough at the station to check all the carriages outside for a seat. You can’t move through the train because everyone is lined up through the aisle. Arrived on time.”

“First week ok. Monday 18th awful. Left work at 5pm got home at 8.30. Had to use three trains to get home.”

* * * * *

 

 

Thursday saw some improvements to train punctuality. However, only about a third (35 per cent) of Southern’s Mainline services were on time (right-time). Only 38 per cent of Thameslink services were on time (right-time).

22jul-a

* * *

Today’s passenger views

Here are some diary entries from Transport Focus Board member, Isabel Liu:

In the morning I chose the 8:10 departing Sydenham Hill and arriving at City Thameslink 8:28 for 9am meeting. 8:10 was on time, but there was standing room only. Arrived at City Thameslink three minutes late. Used the LumiSay emotional tracker app for first time.

In the evening I came back from Tottenham Court Road. I arrived at Balham by tube at 20.24. Next train to Gipsy Hill is the Sutton train at 20.35. It was delayed two minutes. Arrived at Gipsy Hill about six minutes late.

Today the industry body, the Rail Delivery Group, has launched an app to help people see how reliable their train is (previous figures just dealt with the performance of a particular route). http://www.raildeliverygroup.com/media-centre/press-releases/2016/469762637-2016-07-21.html

We had pushed for this information to be released, and worked with the regulator and Association of Train Operating Companies to produce evidence on what passengers wanted from ‘right-time’ information. This is available here:
http://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research-publications/publications/presenting-righttime-performance-information-to-rail-passengers/

We said:
“Passengers will welcome this information being opened up – we know that more transparency helps to build trust. We’ve called for this information to be available for some time, and it’s good to see it being done in an easily accessible way.”

* * *

Thameslink passengers will be expecting better performance as the sinkhole near Forest Hill has now been resolved. However we are still hearing of cancellations and other issues, including a problem with the booking form on Southern’s website.

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21july2016b

21july2016c

21july2016d

* * *

We brought up the information issue many have highlighted in their travel diaries and tweets when we met Govia Thameslink’s customer experience manager recently.

In particular we discussed the lack of information provided at some stations during the disruption on Monday afternoon (following the sinkhole at Forest Hill, the temporary closure of the southbound Arun Valley line and a signalling fault at Salfords).

The operator agreed to feed it into a wider programme of information improvements already underway to provide staff and passengers with the train information that they need. We stressed that when there is disruption and departure boards fail to provide expected departure times and/or platforms, that passengers value the reassurance that an announcement, saying that their train is on the way or where it is on the network, can provide.

Although delays can be extremely frustrating, knowing that you will be able to make your journey can often help ease the stress levels when arriving at a station with limited or no information.

* * *

Mixed picture from passengers today

Our policy advisor and regular Horsham commuter Dan reports that his 7.25am train journey was ‘on time and without incident’.

Colleague Phil was delayed by a late-running train before his (though the train made up time and actually arrived early). However he was pleased to report that his booked Passenger Assistance, which hasn’t always been reliable this week, was ready and waiting on his arrival at London Bridge.

* * *

Here are some diary entries from Transport Focus Board member, Stephen Locke.

Tuesday 18 July
08.36 Crofton Park to City Thameslink
No chance of getting on this – platform jammed solid with refugees from cancelled Honor Oak Park and Brockley services. Took 172 bus to New Cross Gate. Signs there said all London Overground services were cancelled too, but buoyed by TfL website info I ignored this and there was a train waiting at the platform for Highbury and Islington.

Weds 19 July
21.43 Blackfriars to Crofton Park
No problems – running fine. About 30 per cent full.

Thurs 20 July
09.12 Crofton Park to City Thameslink
Running about three minutes late, but no problems. Train about 60 per cent full.

15.39 City Thameslink to Crofton Park
No problems, on time and plenty of space – about 30 per cent full.

* * *

Transport Focus’s Louise Coward said:

“Decided to swerve the hourly Southern train to London Bridge to take the Thameslink from Denmark Hill. A Southeastern train going to Blackfriars actually pulled in at 8.35 (was supposed to be 8.32) and I was overjoyed to get two seats to myself in an air-conditioned carriage. Of course I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and arrived at work just before 9am with a smile on my face.”

Yesterday passengers continued to endure the disruption caused by a sinkhole at Forest Hill. This has led to trains serving London Bridge being delayed, cancelled or diverted.

20july2016b

20july2016a

David H used our feedback form to share his experiences. He says: “On Wednesday  13 July 2016 the 8.34 from Worthing to London Victoria was a crowded until we got to Clapham Junction.”

* * *

Margaret Memailed us to tell us her experiences of using Southern: “I live in Brighton and work Mon to Friday in Lewes.  I have used the service from London Road Brighton to Lewes for 18 years.  It took me under half an hour door to door …… until this year.

Since the end of April I have been late for work at least twice a week due to cancelled or overcrowded trains.  If a train is cancelled from Brighton the next one is usually full by the time it gets to London Road.  The 17.39 from Lewes has been cancelled every day for over two months.

The new ‘TEMPORARY’ timetable started Monday and although more reliable it isn’t much use to me. I leave work at 17.30 and the next train to my station stop is 18.28!  There is a two-carriage train to Brighton’s main station at 18.07, but this is busy as it comes from Ashford International.  Also a lot of passengers are already waiting at Lewes for this train as there are three bus replacements from Seaford.

I’m very fortunate that my commute is just a short distance, but isn’t it pathetic the time it’s taking me!?

It will be interesting when Brighton and Hove Albion (BHA) have its 1st home game at 19.45 on Friday 12 August as the cost of a BHA season ticket includes travel to and from the match… I predict a riot!”

* * *

Transport Focus’s Martin Clarke visited Southern’s social media team today. The team shares an office with the control team, so they have access to the most up-to-date information, as well as station CCTV footage. It was useful to see how they deal with the sheer volume and nature of tweets.

Yesterday, for example, Southern received about 10,000 mentions in tweets, of which the team (three people in the morning, three in the afternoon) responded to about 6500.

They have noticed a shift in tone, with messages getting nastier. They are understanding when a passenger is angry at the service or about the operator generally, but don’t accept personal abuse. Even in these cases though, they try to explain that they are here to help.

Following the timetable change, the team noticed a reduction in the number of mentions of Southern on Twitter last week, but that has spiked again this week with the broken down maintenance train and sinkhole incidents.

Southern produces a daily social media report, measuring volume, general trends and key messages, particularly negative and positive tweets. Positive tweets are shared with managers and fed back to any staff members referred to.

* * *

Transport Focus Board member Isabel Liu reported: “Checked National Rail Enquiries, Southern has cancelled trains at 15-minute intervals in its alternate schedule. My just-in-time train at 11.29 was still available but I have no backup before or after. Delayed two minutes to 11.31. More occupied than usual for this time given the lower frequencies. Seats 80 per cent full. Air conditioning a blessing on this hottest day of the year, 30 degrees Celsius. Arrived Victoria 11.57, one minute after scheduled arrival time.

“Entered Victoria 15.32, next train to Gipsy Hill 15.36, but no platform announced yet. Prior trains are delayed by three to 14 minutes. Now announced for 15.41.

“Gates for platform 13 either closed, not registering Oyster cards, or clogged with passengers trying to figure out Gatwick Express. Departed 15.46, 10 minutes late. Effects of Forest Hill hole emergency works, driver announced. Arrived Gipsy Hill 16.09, so normal journey time.”

* * *

Transport Focus’s Dan Taylor caught the 16.29 Brighton Thameslink from Farringdon last night which was meant to connect at Three Bridges and get him to Horsham at 17.50. Unfortunately every signal seemed to be red and he ended up being 30 minutes late.

Although the delay was frustrating the Thameslink driver sounded genuinely empathetic and apologised for the slow running on several occasions. Whilst he didn’t explain why services were queuing the fact he was communicative lessened the frustration.

At Three Bridges Dan boarded a delayed Bognor train. He thought that the passengers on that were also running half an hour late. It was very crowded and there appeared to be some confusion about whether it was meant to be splitting as scheduled at Three Bridges and if additional stops were going to be made to some of the smaller stations on route, which presumably hadn’t had a train for a while.

He was stood next to the drivers’ cab where the guard was working. It seemed that the guard hadn’t received any clear communication from control and that the driver hadn’t been told either. It felt like this caused a further delay before the train could depart. The guard was very clear in the information she was able to provide though and it took time to help a disabled passenger on board and get him a seat. He hadn’t pre-booked.

The train made two additional stops (Ifield and Faygate). Passengers were told the train would end up going to Bognor instead of splitting, forcing passengers heading towards Chichester to change at Barnham. No reason was given for the delay.

This morning his short hop up to Gatwick from Horsham (07.39) ran on time without incident.

* * *

Transport Focus’s Phil Wilkes reported that for the first time everything went according to plan. He reached the office about five minutes later than usual, having left home almost 50 minutes earlier than usual, so his normal journey was delayed by 55 minutes.

* * *

Transport Focus’s Louise Coward said: “Sounds like 07.30 train from East Dulwich was one to avoid this morning.http://www.eastdulwichforum.co.uk/forum/read.php?5,1682022,page=11

“Not good for first train in an hour to be just four carriages, instead of the usual eight and also running seven minutes late on arrival (not insignificant on what used to be a 12-minute journey in the good old days) especially in this heat.

“Fortunately for my inner peace and serenity I came in early this morning on an ‘almost-on-time’ Thameslink.”

* * *

Transport Focus’s Sara Nelson said the following: “Got a seat this morning – but I did ask for it as I’m pregnant and in this heat quite likely to pass out.

“We stopped outside of Elephant and Castle; doors thankfully left open. There are regular updates but the guard seems to have little info. Eventually he tells us that he is trying to find out reason for red signal but the signaller has hung up on him!

“Following another ‘no news’ update he suggests people can get out onto platform and he will make an announcement before setting off so they can get back on.

“I then get a text alert which mentions ‘an operational incident’ – no one has told the guard!

“About 10 mins in, we get a warning so people can climb aboard… and then we leave a minute or so later (9.01)

“Then sit outside Blackfriars, but guard keeps us updated (9.08). Eventually pull into City Thameslink – 29 minutes late, so just missing out on delay repay.”

Passengers faced confusion and delay yesterday with two separate incidents.

A maintenance train broke down between Horsham and Barnham in the morning, and then in the afternoon engineers discovered a large sinkhole under the track near Forest Hill.

On Twitter, one passenger worried about making it back in time to collect children, while others expressed their frustration with the crowded carriages.

twitter 19 july c

twitter last week northern twitter 19 july b twitter 19 july a

Another Twitter exchange showed the importance of third-party retailers providing correct information as well – see this exchange with a disgruntled thetrainline customer.

twitter last week
We will continue to monitor Southern’s performance and ask passengers to give feedback. Please do continue to tell us how your journey has been affected:
· using #passengervoice on Twitter
· via the feedback form (below)
· by email.

What have passengers said?

Wendy M used our feedback form to share her frustration. She says:
“I work in Lewes and finish at 5.30 pm. There used to be a 17.39 and a 17.57 to Brighton. Now both of these have gone and the next train is 18.07. This is only two coaches and full of people even before it pulls into Lewes. So now I’m losing at least half an hour of my life every evening. I can’t get home in time for my yoga class and I can’t make arrangements with friends as I’m not certain what time I’ll get back to Brighton. My commute used to be quite pleasant, but now it’s unreliable and there are certainly no seats to be had. It’s appalling that they have downgraded the service without reducing the price.”

Transport Focus policy advisor Dan tells us how he struggled to maintain his ’zen’ after a week of fairly good performance.

He said:

“Having had a week of on-time trains, which seemed like nirvana, I’ve been brought back down to earth with a bump. I knew there were problems on my line so I opted to head to Victoria for the 17.34 to Bognor Regis/Southampton via the Arun Valley – the train usually splits at Horsham.

“At Victoria the info screens warned of delays (no reason given) and that my train would leave about 12 minutes late. In the quarter of an hour I waited [on a crowded platform], there wasn’t a single announcement explaining the cause of the overcrowding or delays. No announcement saying where my train was on the network. No apology either.

Once the train was in, having seen some carriages with no door lights showing, Dan assumed they were out of service. However some fellow passengers decided to check.

“As I passed I heard someone at one of the out of service carriages asking a guy in high vis why the doors weren’t opening. His response? “I don’t work here”. He clearly did but didn’t want to face the questions he couldn’t answer.”

At the platform passengers discovered that the train was to be eight rather than the usual 12. And once it set off, they were then informed that the whole train would be going to Bognor.

Dan explains:
“Anyone for Chichester and beyond would have to change at Barnham, and endure the additional stops the Bognor service makes before getting there. Unfortunately the guard hadn’t been told why this was. Later on he came back on to say this was the result of a number of incidents across the network causing widespread delays. I think this was interpreted by many as “any old excuse”. Why couldn’t he give the reasons I had found out on the Southern website?”

“All the way to Three Bridges the train crawled along. No announcement about how late we were or where we were (it’s not always clear; in some areas, one field looks much like another). None of which was very helpful for the lift I was trying to arrange at the other end. More importantly, there was no announcement about the train hitting the 30 minute trigger for delay repay. Not a whisper.”

Dan concludes:
“Whilst I’ve definitely experienced worse, typing all that out seems to bring home some of the problems I and others regularly ignore/screen out. I screen it out because if you sat and thought about it logically you’d really think about putting the season ticket money to better use. That or you’d get really angry. I read an article on mindfulness the other week. It encouraged people to accept the now and use the moment to best advantage; taking time to plan the day etc. Don’t shield yourself from the world with headphones and deny the situation you’re in it said. That’s just about fine if you have an understanding boss once you get to work, and room to get to your diary. However when your evening is reduced by half an hour or more, you find yourself eating later than you should, and squeezing all the things you should have done into the weekend (the ideal time to recover from the commute) I think even the most ardent tai chi practitioner would be reaching for their Ipod.”

Our senior policy advisor Phil once again struggled to get the Passenger Assist he had booked. He checked in at Thornton Heath around 7.45am. The train set off at least a minute late, arriving at London Bridge seven mins late and with many passengers crowded in the aisles from Streatham onwards. Once again there was no assistance on the platform when train pulled in, eventually arriving 12 mins after the train was due to arrive). He was 15 minutes late for work and so, having left home 50 minutes early, his time lost in the morning is 65 minutes.

Our Board member Stephen Locke ended up taking a cab for the first part of his journey:
“I checked at home that services from Honor Oak Park were running ok. But at the station there were no trains at all. Online info still indicated trains were running normally (on the Southern definition – ie late and partly cancelled). Nothing under ‘Live running information’ on the Southern website at this point.”

His return journey from London Bridge was ‘chaotic’ as well:
“All trains shown as either cancelled or delayed. No general announcement. Information desk on the main concourse said Southern weren’t telling them anything. Reference on Southern website by now, to problems between Norwood Junction and London Bridge, but it was deeply buried behind more routine information. Nice helpful older member of staff suggested I go to New Cross on Southeastern and get a bus (which was a good choice).

“Later, after getting home, (about 5pm) I received an email about the problem, and Southern’s website was featuring the issue more prominently. But this was fully 3 hours later than it should have been.”

However, another Board member, Isabel Liu, managed a straightforward journey earlier in the day:
“I arrived at Victoria from Heathrow at 7:47, walked onto 7:51 Southern train to London Bridge. Left on time. Arrived Gipsy Hill on time.”

Click here to read about previous days.

The first week of the new revised Southern timetable is coming to an end. So how has it affected passengers?

The revised timetable contains 1901 services. On average this week, 15 of these services have been cancelled a day as a result of action by Southern. On average there have been a further 10 cancellations a day connected to Network Rail. While this is on a reduced service, might this be a sign of the timetable delivering a more reliable service for passengers?

Significantly the fire at an industrial unit at Clapham Junction blocked all lines in and out of Victoria and track failures and broken down trains have still featured for passengers this week.

Southern announced that on Monday 18 July it would add more services into the revised timetable. This includes more trains on the Tulse Hill, Peckham Rye route, the Mole Valley route between Dorking and Epsom and a train to and from Seaford and also to and from Lewes.

We highlighted yesterday to Southern that online journey planners were not up to date and did not accurately show next week’s revised timetable.

One of our Passenger Managers had a meeting with Southern today discussing how the timetable was impacting passengers and raised these concerns.

Southern informed us that it had not updated online journey planners as it was reviewing the performance of the timetable in the first week before any further decisions, based on this week’s performance, were made. Southern will now upload the timetable online for the remaining three weeks of the revised timetable.

What have passengers said?

The revised timetable meant Phil left home 50 minutes earlier than usual. His train arrived a minute early at London Bridge but then once again he received the wrong pre-booked assistance so had to wait for wheelchair to arrive so five minutes late getting into work. Phil said: “Luckily my bus from London Bridge is on diversion at the moment so that leg of my journey is actually quicker!”

We raised these Passenger Assist issues with Southern and it will look into why it was not provided.

Southern told us that some passengers have reported a more reliable journey from the revised timetable which included the following feedback:

“I realise that I have been berating you and Southern for the appalling service and lack of customer care over the last month, but I would now like to say a big thank you for finally coming up with a reasonably creditable plan to give some element of normality back to the service. I am delighted to report that all of my trains this week (Cooksbridge to London Bridge) have run in time and everything has gone smoothly. So, credit where it is due and many thanks.”

On Twitter passengers continue to provide feedback about how it is impacting on their journeys.

southern1

We will be continuing to monitor Southern’s performance and will be asking passengers to give feedback using a travel diary app to register reactions to each day’s travel. Please do continue to tell us how your journey has been affected using #passengervoice on Twitter.

We continue to monitor how Southern passengers are being affected by the new revised timetable.

The temporary timetable was introduced on Monday. However, a quick check on journey planning systems today for travel next week showed cancelled trains as still running. There were general warnings about the timetable (for example the yellow triangle and banner headlines on webpages) but you could still buy tickets on trains that were not going to run from the Southern website. This is clearly wrong. Trains that are not running should not be displayed and you should definitely not be able to buy a ticket for them.

The image below shows Seaford to Brighton from the National Rail Enquiries website.

Southern 140716

We have raised this with Southern. Revised services for next week will be loaded tomorrow morning; with the following two weeks loaded early next week.

Passengers want certainty – this does not help.

Last night services between Clapham Junction and Victoria were temporarily suspended by a fire at a property near the tracks but services were resumed today.

We will be meeting Southern tomorrow to discuss how the timetable is affecting passengers and get an update on services.

Elsewhere on the Southern network a mixed picture continues.

What are passengers saying?

On Twitter many passengers were confused about what compensation they were entitled to.

southern tweet 1

We have produced a guide on how to claim compensation for Southern passengers, click here to see what you are entitled to.

Commuter and Transport Focus employee Phil got the 8.07am from Thornton Heath. Unfortunately this left the station at 8.10am.

Phil’s train was then three minutes late into London Bridge arriving at 8.49am. It wasn’t until 8.55am before the platform cleared due to the number of passengers on this service.

Having booked assistance in advance for to get along the platform a ramp was incorrectly brought instead of a wheelchair so it was not until 9.00am Phil had left the platform.

End result 15 minutes late into the office having left home 50 minutes earlier than usual.

Dan reported a generally good service during his commute to and from work. Both his journey last night (17.34 to Horsham) and this morning (07.25 to Victoria) were on time and passed without incident.

Elsewhere on twitter passengers reported a mixed picture with some being adversely affected.

southern tweet 2

Other passengers reported an impact on Thameslink services as result of the Southern timetable.

southern tweet 3

You can also read our chief executive’s latest blog about the timetable change and claiming compensation here.

Please continue to tell us your stories on Twitter using #passengervoice.

Click here to read about previous days.

MPs took part in a Westminster Hall debate on the performance of Govia Thameslink rail service. You can watch the session on the Parliament website.

Our chief executive Anthony Smith has blogged about the timetable change and claiming compensation.

Twitter 13 July FARES

Southern tweet 13 July

We know that Southern doesn’t provide individual service updates on its Twitter feed, although the team will try to signpost passengers who have specific queries. We are arranging a visit to the Three Bridges control centre shortly to find out more about how information is provided and how queries and complaints are handled.

We’ve had a mixed picture from across the Thameslink network today.

Passenger Gary filled in our feedback form (below). He travels in to London from Brighton. On the first day his 7.44am train was delayed by more than 20 mins due to congestion from Brighton. Then the return 6.23pm from London Bridge had 5 cars instead of 10 – he said it felt ‘dangerously overcrowded’. His verdict? “Worse not better if that’s possible.”

However, Horsham commuter and Transport Focus policy advisor Dan had a better day today – he caught the
7.25am which left around five minutes late but he says: “To be fair, this service (aside from the odd cancellation resulting from the staff dispute, prior to the temporary timetable) has been fairly reliable.”
He arrived at Victoria without incident and the train was no more crowded than normal.

Similarly Transport Focus insight manager Louise felt her 8.30am train from East Dulwich today was understandably crowded, given the three previous trains were removed as part of the timetable change, but “I can’t report complete carnage or overcrowding!”

She noted that: “There was a steady stream of people from about 8.20, so it appears that people are now familiar with the new timetable… I hopped off at Peckham to pick up the Thameslink to City Thameslink, but I imagine that the train would have been pretty cosy by London Bridge.”

We heard from Sam R, a Thameslink passenger from Streatham who told us about trying to get the 10.08am service to Farringdon yesterday only to find that it, and the two following, were cancelled. Another passenger said all northbound trains were cancelled – there was no information at the station. She then had to get a bus and three tubes with a toddler – a very stressful experience.

Another accessibility issue came up for our colleague Phil, who got to his destination over an hour late and had to manage without his pre-booked assistance. He got the 8.37 from Thornton Heath as his regular 8.07 was cancelled. To cope with the long-distance walk at London Bridge Phil booked Passenger Assist. As per the Passenger Assist rules, he arrived at his station 20 minutes early and checked in with staff to make sure the helpers would be ready. However, there was no-one at London Bridge to meet him – nor any other staff to help. After five minutes Phil rang the assistance helpline and eventually got help, around 15 minutes after arriving. He then had a long wait for a bus.
Time lost: 70 minutes

Meanwhile on Twitter:

Twitter 13 July bTwitter 13 July cTwitter 13 July d

Click here to read about previous days.

This morning was reported to be fairly calm by Louise C, who came in from East Dulwich to London Bridge at 7.30am. She said: “There I was expecting hand-to-hand fighting to squeeze on board…Reality was pretty calm, and I actually got a seat.  London Bridge was quieter than usual too. So it seems that perhaps people are finding other routes in as the expectation is so horrible?”

Victoria 11 July bLast night (Monday 11 July) one of our colleagues had to go to Victoria as his train from City Thameslink to Brighton had a faulty door and couldn’t run. While he was at Victoria he got this picture from the commuter protest. Time lost: 16 minutes – “Just another late dinner…”

You can read more about the protests in the Evening Standard.

Our Board member Theo de Pencier travels in to City Thameslink from Harpenden.  Yesterday (Monday 11 July) morning all trains into London were running late. He says: “We couldn’t make an informed decision as the picture was constantly changing.” Eventually he boarded a train but was told once it had set off that it would run non-stop to St Pancras.  Time lost: 20 minutes

The West Sussex County Times reports on a Horsham-London passenger who has quit her job because of poor service.

Meanwhile on Twitter, one passenger discovered his alternative route would involve having to fork out another fare and then try to claim a refund:

Twitter Underground issue 11 July

We’ve just written to all MPs with Thameslink services in their constituency, so that they can pass on our details to anyone who comes to them for help with this issue.

More from Twitter

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