I travel to work in London on a South West train from Surbiton to London Waterloo. During August half of the platforms at Waterloo Station have been closed for upgrading and they gave us commuters plenty of warning that there would be 50% fewer trains. There were announcements on every train journey prior to August and there were posters all over the stations.
On my first day of work in August I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier so that I could catch an earlier train. This train would arrive in Waterloo just before the time of my ‘normal’ train. Everything worked well during the first week and there were no problems getting home either. There were a lot more staff on platforms and they guided people where to go. They were so helpful that I tweeted a good comment. Yes, I got a reply.
The second week … Tuesday …
I arrived on the platform and there was talk of cancelling trains or stopping them because of a points failure. As I leave my flat I always check my Trainline app. No mention of it there. We got on the train and it set off. It stopped at Berrylands. We were being held there. The guard apologised. Eventually we arrived at Wimbledon and we were told very apologetically by the guard that the train was going no further. The platform was packed and most of us made our way to the District line. Two tube rides and I got to work for 08:30.
I then found out that it was actually a derailment that happened at 05:40 which caused the problems. Thankfully no one was hurt.
Throughout the rest of the day South West Trains advised people not to travel that day and the following day. Well how did I get home? Levitate? I got home using the tube to Wimbledon then two buses. It tok just over two hours.
On Wednesday I was going to go to work despite the ‘advice’. I got up ten minutes earlier and found an earlier train from Surbiton. My surprise was that it was going to Waterloo and we arrived before 07:00. I caught my usual bus and I was in work at 07:30. The journey home was smooth and uneventful.
When I travel to work I have always had contingency plans for problems with transport. That is my nature. I will try different routes because I am always looking for a faster route. The one thing about me is that I cannot be late. I hate lateness and I would rather be one hour early than one minute late.
So I have contingency plans. Do South West Trains have contingency plans? Points failure, Derailment and anything gets else. Do they actually plan for these? Where I am standing on that packed platform they appear to be in disarray. They don’t believe in good Customer Service because they don’t tell us what is happening. The poor people on their twitter feed take a lot of flack and do their best to placate individuals.
Where are the leaders and the managers at the top? They are being paid large salaries and yet to us people on the ground they appear inept. Surely there are risk assessments carried out regularly and plans of action in the event of a derailment. I actually wonder if the plan is to hide.
Ok leaders at South West trains, you should have reassured the people who pay your wages. Tell us the situation as it is and what you are going to do about it. You must know what you plan to do, surely.
Customer service is everything and you need to treat them better. It is in times such as Tuesday that you earn respect and it just did not happen. Customers pay a lot for their season tickets and they expect a decent service.
Perhaps the end of the franchise had a role to play in the way that this was handled, but I would like to think that they were professionals or am I a misguided fool.
Here’s to the next franchise …