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.
#Southeastern the 21:00 train from LB has only just arrived at HG. Your communications with the passengers stuck on board has been non existent. What compensation are we entitled too? A bad situation made soo much worse by your handling of it.
— Stuart Watts (@Cooper111121) December 11, 2022
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 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.
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.
A train came to a stand there last night and we couldn't get a rescue train to it as the rails had rapidly iced up.
Our mobile ops manager came along this morning and manually scraped the ice free (with the electricity isolated and an insulating tool – don't try this yourself)./2 pic.twitter.com/hCrD5V5OvK
— Network Rail Kent & Sussex (@NetworkRailSE) December 12, 2022
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.
@Se_Railway have been stuck on Sidcup train leaving from London Bridge for ages. 21.04 from Charing X. We are just outside LB still! Driver saying something but the speakers are broken so can’t hear! Please can you update – trains moving either side. Very frustrating
— Faye McCartney (@faye2332) December 11, 2022
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.