‘Take franchise away from train operator’

Southeastern train SUS-150720-174803001
Southeastern train SUS-150720-174803001

Frustrated passengers have signed an online petition calling for a train operator to be stripped of its franchise.

So far, more than 10,000 have signed the petition, which accuses Southeastern of ‘consistently letting down their paying customers’ in Kent and Sussex.

But Martin Woodfine of the St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement (SHRIMP) says Southeastern’s performance on the Hastings to Charing Cross route has improved.

Mr Woodfine said: “From a Hastings aspect, the Charing Cross route has seen a steady and welcome improvement of punctuality (approx 25 percent, per SER) and reliability, especially in the commuter crush period. That improvement has come about as a direct result of the London Bridge reconstruction project, whereby Thameslink services no longer block the path of our trains on the approach to London Bridge. This will be a permanent positive, because Thameslink services will get dedicated tracks.

“Whilst we cannot comment on service issues affecting other areas of the SER network, from a Hastings-area aspect the petition is an unwanted negative in a notable general improvement.

“Having said that any rail operation will be subject to random infrastructure issues and SER are no exception.

“Over the period of the new SER franchise we have found the new management team to be very amenable to discussion and honest in their communications.”

David Statham, managing director for Southeastern, said: “We understand it has been a difficult few weeks for passengers due to a series of problems, many of which have been caused by faults with the infrastructure we use. A number of these were weather related, such as the line closure between Folkestone and Dover due to heavy storms damaging the sea wall, as well as landslides at Barnehurst and Wadhurst.

“Signalling and track circuit failures have also caused delays during peak time travel. All of these have caused frustration for passengers and we would like to reassure them Network Rail works hard to solve infrastructure problems when they happen. Undoubtedly, these issues have helped prompt passengers to start a petition. While decisions on awarding a franchise to a train company are a matter for the Department for Transport, we are committed to bringing about improvement.”

He added Southeastern now runs more trains and has seen a 40 percent rise in passenger numbers. The company is also investing more than £70million on improvements.

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