Passengers “wee in cups” after Southeastern train stranded

A Southeastern train became stuck for almost two hours last night with passengers stating they received little information during disruption with no onboard toilets and broken intercoms.

A train became stuck between London Bridge and Hither Green last night with no on-board staff aside from the driver, who couldn’t be heard according to some passengers.

This is not a new issue. It happened at the infamous Lewisham incident five years ago and still continues. Anyone who uses Metro services has experienced the sorry state of intercoms on board.

It’s not uncommon to be on a Metro train (a Networker usually), hear something, crane your neck and hear little more than crackles emanating from the speaker.

When this was raised last night however, the boss of Southeastern first claimed there was no stranded train.

However a number of passengers were highlighting the situation and online information showed it stationary.

I also heard of the problem from other sources.

It fell further behind schedule from this moment before reaching Hither Green 

It was, of course, an extremely busy and trying time. When I first heard I was told it was outside London Bridge which was incorrect, as it failed after London Bridge but before its first stop.

However there was still no acceptance of an issue all night and since then, a failure to acknowledge intercom problems. When raised it appeared doing so was a slight against staff.

That’s a nonsense. There’s many excellent staff – and Southeastern do have plenty – who worked extremely hard. It’s conflating two issues.

This also seems to miss the point that on a bus, for example, a driver can talk to passengers. That is not the same as a train when the intercom is broken, which is a common occurrence and safety critical.

Third rail

Now, before continuing it should be made clear that snow and ice coupled with the third rail is a nightmare. Things will often go wrong and in some ways there’s little that can be done about it.

De-icing trains are run by Network Rail as are “ghost” trains by Southeastern to keep the third rail from freezing but it’s simply not always possible.

And when issues do arise it’s often not possible to source coaches or buses at the best of times, and in any case the roads were treacherous. People were being told to stay in hotels or take cabs which would be refunded.

Yet what can be improved however is informing passengers once a problem is underway on board. That was the major failing again.

Despite this, the boss of Southeastern has not addressed the key issue last night once a problem did occur.

This is also related to an argument the RMT are currently making with staff cuts across the network likely in coming years. On Southeastern Metro there are no on board staff. It’s DOO (driver-only operated).

That may or may not be a big deal depending on your outlook, but if it’s in place it’s crucial that a driver or other staff can talk to passengers through working passenger communication systems.

After Lewisham a system was implemented that other staff could use passenger information systems aside from the driver, though if they don’t work that’s not much use.

The issue here again is not that something happened, but how it’s handled.

Recently I’d praised the boss of Southeastern for better engagement than many others in similar roles.

Yet to respond when the issue was highlighted to deflect and talk of hard working staff as if raising inaudible intercoms is criticising them is not going to fix the problem.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

7 thoughts on “Passengers “wee in cups” after Southeastern train stranded

  • I think two trains became stuck between stations and what people are saying?

    Regardless of that, a serious issue arose with the knackered speakers which has happened so many times. Much of the time their inability to be heard isn’t the end of the world but when trains stop for long periods it comes to the fore.

    The Chief Exec should make fixing that a priority rather than getting shirty. Doesn’t strike me as good leadership to accuse anyone of “criticising one train” when a serious safety issue is brought to light on said train, and to then act as if that safety issue shouldn’t be covered as staff worked hard?

    Why not pay those staff more (and I agree they work hard) and invest in trains with working systems so their life isn’t made harder.

  • You did praise him, when you responded to my comment about him not listening to us commuters about our concerns about the timetable change.

    Steve White comes across as being rather pleased with himself and hasn’t done a good job at all.

    Sorry he was rude to you.

  • He has managed to secure a refurb for the 376s and a tender is out on Networker replacement which is more than the previous franchise. He is operating within extremely tight confines from the DfT/Treasury who want to cut severely. In that context whoever is in charge the timetable changes would happen.

    So while he didn’t always answer all questions he did make more of an effort such as attending Greenwich Council’s transport scrutiny panel. It’s a shame he isn’t answering the question on communications during serious disruption and seemingly batting it away.

  • There must be a health & safety requirement that the train PA system needs to work properly. What if there is an accident, how would they communicate?

  • I agree Woolwich Resident it must be a health and safety issue. Drivers must be able to communicate with their passengers at all times.The rolling stock is old and needs replacing in the near future.

  • Third rail 750v DC, all you need is a heating element in strategic places so one pickup shoe is in contact with a heated part of live rail.

  • Oslo metro uses third rail. It’s possibly heated but if you look up a photo you can see the rail is higher than ours and pickup looks to be underneath the rail.

    I was at our Oslo office in winter a few years ago. Temps around -15c and when we were leaving heavy snow set in, we were set to call a taxi to the airport and were then warned that would be worse, train would be better. Sure enough no problems and all on time. So yes our third rail is an issue but it could be fixed a lot cheaper I suspect than a full switch to overhead power.


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