We’re now fully into what some may see as the first full working week of 2024 and the same old problems are rearing their head again Southeastern with dozens of stations lacking staffing today.
The number of station issues stands at 70 at the time of writing with the vast majority being no ticket offices being open.
From Brixton to Catford Bridge, Eltham to Welling all have a lack of staff today.
This is a long-running problem which has only increased as the Department for Transport prevented rail companies such as Southeastern hiring staff due to the now abandoned plan to close almost all ticket offices.
On Southeastern however that means no staff whatsoever across the vast majority of the metro network. No one to help passengers, no one to sell tickets the machines cannot and no one to help ensure safety.
And unlike networks such, say, the DLR or South Western Railway Metro, there’s no passenger-facing staff on every train either. Or pretty much any with Southeastern Metro. When did you last see any?
Yet even if Southeastern did manage to staff all ticket offices as they should, many are operating to minimal hours with a large number bearing no relation to changes seen in over the past 10 to 20 years.
These issues date back a long way to various franchises, short term extensions then the DfT bodge job now seen.
Kidbrooke? Nearly 6,000 homes nearby built or underway but you’d never know it.
The station was rebuilt but one wonders what’s the point? If it’s barely staffed and often shut then no matter than what was there before. Even before opening the planning application was revised to remove ticket barriers. That would require staffing.
What of Deptford? Many new homes recently built, currently being built or planned. Same story with scarce staffing hours – if anyone is there at all.
Lower Sydenham? Again an area that’s changed from quiet and mostly warehouses to high density housing. Not that you’d know it from station management.
Many stations could be highlighted. Plumstead has three developments totalling 2,500 homes underway within a few hundred metres. Yet the DfT seek cuts regardless and efforts to grow revenue and passengers seem at the back of their thinking – if present at all.
Then there’s areas that have always been busy. Busy inner London stations like Woolwich Arsenal are ghost towns of an evening.
This all adds up to a network where paying is optional for many journeys, safety is a gamble and it all creates an environment almost tailor-made to drive people away.
Which it seems to do, as passenger numbers lag way behind other networks which bother to staff stations and trains.
Not much use to many though who use the SE Metro network without an alternative, and what a waste of a potential outlet to alleviate road congestion as well as help the wider economy.
After all, the state if it doesn’t help encourage people to travel to central London to help the evening economy.