1st email response to Robert Baker at the DfT
Dear Mr Baker
Firstly, thank you for responding to my email to the Secretary of State regarding Southeastern train services. I appreciate your taking the time to do so.
However, I would like draw your attention to the following issues:
Point 1 in your response – The McNulty review needs to consider the views of rail users. It is not good enough to for the government and the rail industry to tell rail passengers what they need. Thousands of people use the rail services for their livelihoods and it is why we are in this mess now because rail users were not consulted in the first instance. There needs to be input from selected passenger groups to get across the needs for people using the services. This applies across the UK, not just in Kent.
Point 2 in your response – This is part of the flaw with the current franchise agreement. It fails to consider passengers and more specifically, season ticket holders. I would like to ask when the figures are audited exactly? Independent forensic accountants need to review this years figures. Afterall, if the figures are as accurate as we are told, then surely they independent auditor will establish the same figure and the travelling public will be more confident in the government and the Train Operating Company. Also, are they allowed a margin of error? Are there any adjustments applied at year end? We need to understand what makes up the production of these figures and it simply does not wash to hide behind non-disclosure acts.
Point 3 in your response – I am in despair that you state “there are currently no issues…” with regards the termination of the current franchise. Has the department for transport not seen the numerous reports on TV, radio and in the national and local press? Surely all the complaints from commuters across Kent, in particular since the laughably named High Speed 1 service was introduced, mean something and offer a clue as to how the travelling public feels about the current situation? Is there something preventing the DfT from comprehending how we are being treated by the Train Operating Company? What needs to happen before we are listened to? All you can do is tell me that if they meet pre-determined targets from across the county, they will be given the contract extension. That is not good enough. They are only hitting targets because they have lengthened journey times and they have this 5 minute window in which to arrive at a destination. If I am five minutes late for work, I am just that late. In the next franchise this needs to be examined at length. It is unfair and displays a false impression of punctuality.
Is there any possibility that Southeastern Trains can be challenged on the treatment of their customers at the franchise review? Surely the DfT has a moral obligation to protect the travelling public as much as shield the Train Operating Company?
Point 4 in your response – You state that the DfT will “carefully assess” the cold weather performance of transport systems. Each year we are told by the farcical press department at Southeastern that they will learn lessons in time for the next winter period. Two years ago Sarah Boundy (known by travellers as Comical Boundy) stated that Southeastern Trains had lessons to learn from the snowfall that caused numerous serious delays. What happened in 2010? She stated the same line about learning lessons when they couldn’t even communicate properly to stranded passengers. How long must we listen to this drivel trawled out each winter? Once again I request that passengers are included in any discussions about winter travel. Afterall, we are the ones that suffer on these services and then listen to the twaddle dished out by Ms Boundy.
Point 5 in your response – The Alliance of Kent Commuters nominated Mr Coppins for the role of rail csar on the basis of his experience of the rail industry and his neutrality. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this appointment was endorsed by Passenger Focus. A Rail Csar is needed as Passenger Focus cannot request audits for Network Rail or the relevant Train Operating Company. The Rail Csar idea is much more than just a sounding board for passengers. It would have power to investigate whet happens to the monies being sloshed around between Network Rail the the particular Train Operating Company, especially in times of delay when one party pays the other for delays caused on journeys. Passenger Focus is a place for us to go and air our grievances against the rail industry. The Rail Csar is a position of real authority and the people that endorsed this idea have between them in excess of 100 years of rail experience so I believe that highlights the necessity for this role and for Mr Coppins to fill that role. Are you telling me that despite the nomination of Mr Coppins and the endorsement by Passenger Focus and Senior experienced rail industry figures the government are prepared to ignore this proposition? That is a very dangerous thing to do. Afterall, what experience does Sir Roy McNulty have in terms of travelling by rail? What does he understand about using this vital network to get to and from work on a daily basis? The DfT are prepared to allow him to oversee a complete review but are not prepared to install a rail csar with the experience and backing of senior rail figures. It does not bode well for passengers if that is the thought process with those in power.
Also, Mr Coppins and I both wrote to the Prime Minister and not the DfT. The responses were less than satisfactory.
Point 6 in your response – Does the fact that 14 Kent MP’s met with Southeastern and were just as frustrated by them as we are not mean anything to you? The Train Operating Company are being allowed to get away with this second class treatment of passengers because they can hide behind the franchise agreement. This demonstrates to me how weak the initial franchise was and the whole spectrum of the next agreement needs to have passenger input.
Point 7 in your response – KCC need to understand that the next meeting needs more input from passenger groups at the next meeting. We do not need to hear more drivel from Souteastern Trains. It is time for passenger groups to have a genuine input into the next franchise and indeed, we have offered plenty of ideas in a document as drafted by Councillor Peter Lee which he sent to Roger Gale MP.
How can we convince the DfT that this franchise is not helping the people of Kent? Southeastern are being allowed to fleece commuters without giving us any improvements to services. They are laughing all the way to the bank as the weak and shambolic franchise agreement offers not protection for rail users.
In summary Mr Baker, I hope that the DfT can rescue this situation for us all. I hope I have made myself clear and you appreciate my sentiments. I do not enjoy sending huge emails and spending a lot of my free time on what should be a good rail service.
I would be happy to discuss these points with you in person should you have the time or inclination to do so.
Alliance of Kent Commuters