Commuters rate train service worst in the whole country

Gary Jefferies

Southeastern Railway’s already damaged reputation with Tunbridge Wells passengers and commuters has suffered a further blow with the news that its mainline rail services have been rated the worst in the country when it comes to value for money.

A survey has shown only 28 per cent of mainline customers consider Southeastern ticket prices value for money – the lowest rating in the country.

Services covered include the Hastings line, which is vital for commuters, especially on journeys between Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and London.

When the question was put specifically to commuters, the results were even more damning, with only 14 per cent considering their ticket to be good value.

An annual season ticket from Tunbridge Wells to London costs £4,404 and a monthly season is £422.80. A peak-time single ticket costs £20.80, and a return is £26.10.

There was also a 28-point drop from last year in commuter satisfaction with punctuality and reliability, down to 42 per cent.

The findings, in the bi-annual National Rail Passenger Survey Spring 2016, published on June 30, represent an accumulation of months of frustration for rail customers, who have had to endure endless cancellations, delays and packed carriages.

Phil Rodgers, former Chairman of the Southeastern Rail Action Group, has called for Southeastern Managing Director David Statham’s resignation.

Mr Rodgers, who stepped down from his post in May citing the stress of dealing with the operator, said:  “The opinions of those surveyed clearly show information and communication is getting worse. He is a failed leader of his team, and he needs to go.”

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, while not singling out individuals, voiced his criticism of the operator’s ‘unacceptable’ performance, adding: “Southeastern’s low satisfaction score is no surprise. In return for paying high fares, I and my constituents expect to be able to get a seat, travel in a pleasant environment and arrive
on time. Southeastern’s franchise is up for review and should not be renewed without a guarantee of significant improvements.”

The results of the survey show plenty of room for improvement in almost all areas, with satisfaction ratings dropping in 34 of the 36 categories being measured.

Most dramatically, there was a slump to 26 per cent with the ‘availability of staff’ as well as 29 per cent with ‘how well the train company deals with delays’.

The decline in performance has resulted in Southeastern sharing the worst overall level of customer satisfaction in the country.

At just 69 per cent, they are equalled only by the much beleaguered Southern Rail, who are owned by the same parent company, Govia.

Southeastern released an immediate response to the survey, with David Statham acknowledging: “The results were really disappointing but, in many ways, don’t come as a surprise considering the disruption passengers have had to face.”

But he was quick to point out the unfortunate timing of the survey: “It was taken between January and March, at a time when we weren’t able to give our passengers the service they wanted and rightfully expect.

“It’s reassuring that a more recent independent poll of our passengers shows overall satisfaction has improved and now stands at 79 per cent.”

Alisdair Coates, Route Managing Director for Network Rail’s operations in the south east, described the period covered by the survey as ‘very disruptive’, blaming extreme weather at the beginning of the year as a major contributor to their problems.

He also cited the complications caused by the refurbishment of London Bridge station, adding: “Right now we are operating through the biggest infrastructure project of our time, but we’re halfway there. Come August, Southeastern passengers will see the opening of a brand new concourse just for them.”

To see the survey, go to:

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