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Southeastern trains performance questioned


Rail watchdog investigates Southeastern trains performance

 From:  http://www.kentnews.co.uk/p_12/Article/a_10331/Rail_watchdog_investigates_Southeastern_trains_performance_

Passengers have questioned a rail company’s performance figures after it met its target by just 0.4 per cent.

Commuters using Southeastern, which runs trains through Kent into the capital, were plagued with delays and cancellations in 2010.

During the worst of the Arctic weather in December, passengers using the Hastings line, which runs through Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks into London stations, faced major disruption with some even trapped overnight on trains.

Now rail watchdog Passenger Focus has called for Southeastern’s figures to reviewed, and if they are shown to be incorrect, season ticket holders could be compensated with a five per cent discount.

With season tickets soaring up to 12 per cent and an average yearly ticket costing £3,352 from Tunbridge Wells to London from January 2011, any refund would be a welcome relief for hard-pressed commuters.

Tunde Olatunji, Kent spokesman for the rail watchdog, said: "Passenger Focus is helping Southeastern so passengers can gain trust in the integrity of their performance figures."

Season ticket holder do not get compensation for individual delays to their daily journeys, but they are entitles to some if a rail company’s overall performance fails to meet a certain target.

Southeastern scored 82.04 per cent for trains running on time and not cancelled and the target was 82 per cent, Mr Olatunji said.

"It is a slim margin by which they have avoided falling below the target threshold," he said. "A number of passengers have contacted me questioning how accurate these figures are.

"We’re not in a position to say whether they are or not, but what I have asked is for them to give me reassurances by letting me see them."

Meanwhile, Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells, is set to meet with Charles Horton, the managing director of Southeastern soon to talk generally about the company’s performance. He said he would be pressing for passengers to receive compensation for the disruption they suffered.

The minister for decentralisation minister was among a number of angry Kent MPs to meet with Mr Horton after the company’s poor performance during the cold weather.  

"West Kent commuters suffered the worst of the chaos," he said. "Yet season ticket refunds are based on the average performance of the whole network.

"I asked Mr Horton to offer a goodwill discount to customers based on their actual experience of their line and not to shelter behind the contractual defence."

In response, a spokesman for Southeastern said: "We will certainly always look at all individual cases if they write into us and certainly those who have been particularly badly affected (such as stuck on a train for several hours) will receive something."

But this may do little to appease some passengers, who believe they should be entitled to the full five per cent discount on their next season ticket.

"The margin they’ve achieved is so slim that it has led a number of passengers to question how that has come about. I’m trying to investigate the validity of that information," Mr Olatunji said.

"I’m not in a position to say yes or no the moment, but Southeastern should give reassurance to passengers that they are correct or if that is not the case then we would want to get whatever compensation is due."

He added: "If it’s been met that close it is a thin line, which is of little comfort to passengers. Performance has been with 18 per cent of trains not being on time and passengers facing delays.

"Clearly we would support anything that would allow passengers to get compensation for that poor performance."

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