'The service is completely useless': commuters react to Southern rail profit hike – live
As co-owner of the Southern rail franchise the Go-Ahead Group announces a 27% rise in profits, Martin Belam joins commuters to find out what they think about some of the busiest rail journeys in the UK
Here’s an image from Alan Simpson, who commutes between Nunhead and Farringdon on the service run by Govia Thameslink.
Nearly every day the train is delayed from between 5 and 20 minutes for a 22 minute journey. Nearly every peak train is over capacity, and some days people can’t get on at Nunhead and Peckham Rye.
I’m back at Victoria station, where I started over three hours ago. The station is a lot busier, but rush hour is mostly done. The people who were sleeping on the seats at 6am have been replaced by passengers checking their phones and reading newspapers.
For further evidence that Southern aren’t the only rail company with irked regular passengers, here’s a round up of commuter stories from across Britain.
Operator used: Thameslink / Southern
Annual season ticket: £4,500
It is just too difficult to describe what I have encountered on a daily/weekly basis for the last few months. I am apoplectic with the Southern and Thameslink services. Some days I want to cry but mostly I just want to scream.
I am very fortunate that my employers are so flexible as I rarely arrive on time.
For the cost it’s shocking – you rarely get a seat at peak time which means you’re forced to stand. It’s only 25 minutes – but if you’re stuck in a tiny space with 30 other people it feels a lot longer! Trains are usually late – usually only by a few minutes but sometimes it’s disastrous. It seems to be affected by rain (flooding), wind (reduction in speed), heat (reduction in speed), cold (ice) – the list is endless.
I have two really specific gripes:
1) lack of communication. If the train is slow or stops en route it’s rare anyone on board takes the time to explain (but will usually manage to announce the cafe is open!)
There are inevitable glitches, possibly one bad trip a month but otherwise it’s largely on time; I always get a seat, often two seats, occasionally an entire table; the crews are friendly; and the 1970’s vintage Mk3 coaches with the original comfy seats are as good as it gets – remember HSTs in BR days – You get people wondering if they’ve strayed into first class.
The bacon sandwiches are lovely and the coffee awful.
Some train pain from the north of England …
I commute on a Northern Rail pacer between Huddersfield and Manchester and it’s terrible – both during winter and summer. Air con? Forget it. Wifi? Forget it. Leg room? What’s leg room? And all that for £200 a month.
Going back in the evening is always utter shambles, with trains delayed and last minute platform alterations and no information from staff. And in the mornings, if they put fewer than 4 carriages on, which they often do, a couple of stops down people can’t get on.
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2 September 2016, 8:41
I used to commute from Sheffield to Manchester via trains for 9 months. I only managed to endure the service for that long, as it was frequently late arriving into Manchester. Often it was delayed, sometimes the 4 carriages would be reduced to 2 and I would be crammed in next to the toilet. All this for the princely sum of £330 a month. Now I work in Sheffield and walk 10 minutes down the road. Trains in this country are over priced, unreliable and frankly a disgrace for a country like the UK in the 21st century. This became even more apparent after a trip to Japan. The service and system there is amazing.
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2 September 2016, 8:29
I’m travelling around the fringes of south London at the moment, but we are asking for your experiences of using rail all over the UK.
Emus – I think that is a name rather than Rod Hull’s mates – regularly travels from Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester Piccadilly. They raise an interesting question about how fare structures affect what we are prepared to do to travel to and from work:
I cycle to the station in order to get within an arbitrary price boundary which saves 30% off my fare. The train is relatively empty when I get on, but I usually have to compete for space for my bike as there are no signs in the allocated space that bikes are permitted. I get off train in Manchester and cycle 30mins to work. To travel this way takes the same amount of time, or more than, by car, but for environmental and exercise reasons I choose to cycle.
A lot of the time when we report on train reliability, as journalists we tend to fall back into reporting “but how does it affect commuters” because they can be the most visible and most vocal group using a service. But there is a lot more to using public transport than just travelling to work.
This story was sent into us last night via our form, and it really puts into perspective the additional anxiety that an unreliable service can add to an already emotionally difficult situation.
My partner is having radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden Sutton: we have been travelling there from Clapham Junction on Southern since July once or twice a week, and since 1 August Monday-Friday. We are in week five of six of our treatment commute. During this period we have experienced the revised timetable and a strike … and almost every day trains are late, cancelled or at the very least a last-minute platform alteration.
There are “security staff” on the platform who know NOTHING and look up “live departures” on their phones if you ask for information. It is uncertainty and stress which we can really do without: I feel that I just can’t rely on Southern to provide the service we need.
An unhappy user of Southern trains … not pleased by the announcement this morning …
Southern service on the Brighton mainline has been terrible all year. Peak “terribleness” hit in May/June/July. I’ve been commuting for approx 4-5hrs a day to work around the random cancellations – train hopping three/four times per journey, often. I pay £410 a month for the privilege. And this apparently Will go up in January. Someone, somewhere, is having a right good laugh at us commuters. The government should step in. If they don’t then what good are they?!
Sent via GuardianWitness
2 September 2016, 8:16
I’m on a train heading into Victoria. When I speak to him, Andrew tells me he has just been reading about the profit announcement on his phone. I ask him how he feels about it.
“A bit sick. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. And haven’t the government just put a load of extra money into a rescue plan? It seems like unfair profiteering. You wonder how bad it has to get or what they have to do to get it taken off them.”
Fiona Pattison took this photo at Balham station in London last night – she was travelling to Gypsy Hill. She tells us she “ended up with a crush in the tunnel under platforms as platforms kept being altered. Forty-minute delay on a nine-minute journey.”
Chaos as trains were cancelled, platforms were altered and no information was given. Someone is going to get hurt.
Sent via GuardianWitness
2 September 2016, 7:38
We’ve been receiving a steady flood of rail horror stories via our commuter call-out, which you can contribute to here.
Many of them seem to involve Southern. Here’s Lee, a media director from London, who travels to the south coast regularly to visit his elderly mother.
I’ll detail you the worst journey I had thanks to the conductor shortage that happened this year.
Friday night – I leave work, get to Clapham junction to go see my mum. It’s 6.30 and I just missed a train. Next one isn’t for another 30 minutes. Then the cancellations start appearing. There is a signalling fault in East Croydon. Then there isn’t enough staff to run the trains. The next three trains don’t appear. One arrives 45 mins late (after the three that haven’t appeared) train is so busy with people trying to get to East Croydon that I can’t get on the train. It’s now 2 1/2 hours into my journey, Clapham Junction is mayhem and I haven’t moved.
Fabio Sarlo has left this comment on our Facebook page. He is an orchestral management trainee at the English Chamber Orchestra. He tells us:
Landed my dream job in London two months ago, been commuting up from Horsham on Southern fail. Terrible service, 8/10 times a train is delayed or cancelled sometimes to poor excuses which I’m starting to think they make up! Aside from the terrible service it’s the sheer cost that baffles me – £455 a month for a travelcard from horsham!
As a recent graduate with no savings behind me it’s been almost impossible to get off the ground financially these first couple of months even with a wage coming in! The amount of strikes is getting out of hand – I will have been at my job for eight weeks and I will have endured two weeks of strikes by that point … it is inexcusable and I really hope they can sort the mess out that is Southern Fail.
I’m sat on the surprisingly punctual and empty 07:54 from Lewes to London Victoria, whipping through the Sussex countryside, writes our environment site editor, Adam Vaughan.
Today is not a normal day. Yesterday my train home from London Bridge was cancelled, no explanation, while the day before my train home was delayed by about 40 minutes due to another train having brake problems. Next week’s two strikes mean I’ll either have to cycle more than 100 miles in a day to get to work, or work from home.
I’ve been bustling up to people on trains and introducing myself saying, “Sorry I know it’s weird to talk to strangers on trains, but I’m a journalist.”
The best reply to that so far has been: “Well if you are a journalist you’re weird anyway.” It’s a fair cop to be honest.
Ben from Guildford appears to have channeled the experience of trying to write this live blog. He describes his regular morning commute as:
Train arrives. Stand up for half an hour. Wifi provided is useless, so try to do work while going in and out of bad phone signal. Get off.
Hundreds of station staff working on the Southern franchise will stage a 48-hour strike on Wednesday and Thursday next week over the prospect of driver-only trains, which would save Govia money but which the RMT union claims would make trains less safe.
More from Julia Kollewe on the business desk:
Go-ahead has said its chief executive, David Brown, has “made it clear he does not wish to be considered for an annual bonus this year and declined a salary increase”. The company has also introduced passenger satisfaction measures in its annual bonus plan.
Govia has been at loggerheads with unions over the use of more driver-only trains and the role of guards. A 48-hour walkout by RMT guards next Wednesday and Thursday is expected to go ahead, while a strike by station staff has been called off.
I’ve gone from London Bridge to East Croydon. For part of the journey I was sitting opposite a man in his 50s listening to The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks so loudly on his headphones that I could happily sing along. Thankfully we weren’t in a quiet coach.
A few seats down from him is Stefano. He has only started using Southern in the last couple of weeks – he used to take the tube. His regular commute is just a couple of stops out of central London, and so far he says he hasn’t experienced any problems with the services. “Five-minute delays sometimes, but that’s nothing.”
One person has sent in a photo showing his train cancelled this morning – although that line all looks good now …
My train this morning at Victoria. Pretty standard.
Sent via GuardianWitness
2 September 2016, 7:39
Many rail commuters have been getting in touch. Here are some of the contributions so far:
Walter commutes on the Hope Valley line, which connects Sheffield and Manchester – he travels between there and Rose Hill, Marple. He tells us:
The trains are very uncomfortable and busy, there are usually only two small carriages. They are noisy. They are too hot. The train station has no facilities at all – not even disabled access! There is nowhere to buy a ticket so people have to queue after getting off the train to buy one. Also the service finishes at about 8pm and there are no Sunday trains.
The day begins with checking the Network Rail app as soon as I wake up so that I can see whether any trains have been delayed or cancelled. If everything seems fine I get a bit worried that the app isn’t working properly. I’ll step out to the station and will usually notice that the train I’m aiming for is a few minutes late. This is one thing to point out, they’re never on time. Ever.
I usually have the option of a seat at my station, but the train is still crowded most of the time. A few stations along and it’s standing room only.
This is a good line and the early train I catch in, and the mid-afternoon one I catch back, always have seats. The mid-afternoon train is often a little late, but not more than 10 minutes. My main dissatisfaction is the price – I wish it was a bit cheaper. (Her season ticket is about £5,000)
The Department for Transport publishes a list of Britain’s most overcrowded rail routes. Here is the roll call of shame for autumn 2015, the most recent figures available.
I’ve been on the 07:27 Southern train from Brockley to London Bridge. When I tell Kevin about the profit announcement and ask him what he thinks he says: “What can you say that is polite?”
He is with Claire. She says she isn’t worried about the company making money, it’s “the fact that they can’t control the unions” that annoys her.
Last night on Twitter we asked you what your rail commute in the UK was like, and one of the first responses we got was an animated gif of Miss Piggy repeatedly smashing her head into the table.
More on the breaking news about Southern’s owners making record profits. Julia Kollewe writes:
Go-Ahead, which owns Southern rail operator Govia, has reported profits of nearly £100m, despite widespread problems at Southern.
Statutory profits before tax increased 27% to £99.8m, with revenues up 4.5% to £3.4bn.
If you’re commuting by rail – anywhere in the UK – then please let us know what your journey is like. You can share your experiences, photos or video (though do think about other people’s privacy if you’re taking images) by clicking on the blue contribute button at the top or if you prefer via our form. We’ll use as many of your contributions in the blog as we can.
I’ve spoken to a member of train crew who will be striking next week. He says he’s not doing it for him – “I’ve done thirty years, back from the BR days. If they want to make me redundant, I’ll be fine” – but he says he’s doing it for the future – “to protect our railways”.
He describes scenarios he has been involved in, including having to put out a “Are there any doctors on the train?” call when a woman had gone into labour. He says in emergencies like this, or when somebody falls ill, what is more important – the 1,000 people on the train or acting to help the one person? What can a driver do in that kind of situation if the trains aren’t fully staffed?
Here’s the view from someone who wanted to remain anonymous, but had plenty to say:
Dissatisfied doesn’t really begin to describe it. The service is completely useless. Trains are late, crowded, short (of carriages) and random. Even first class (often declassified) is unpleasant on many trips.
I have little to no sympathy for the strikers who are making the situation worse, for little or no gain, and appear to want to return to some mythical past. The strikes certainly appear to be more about a political power play for the union than trying to come to a sensible resolution.
Southern rail has become a byword for overcrowding and delays thanks to a combination of factors.
Despite the problems at Southern, Go-Ahead, which owns Southern operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) with Keolis of France, has reported a 21% rise in profits before tax to nearly £100m. Revenues increased 4.5% to £3.4bn.
David Brown, the chief executive, apologised to passengers who have been affected by Southern’s woes. He said: “A large part of the role of the GTR franchise is to introduce three new train fleets and modernise working practices. During this period of change, Southern services have been disrupted by restricted network capacity, strike action and increased levels of absence.
With the Go-Ahead Group announcing their results today, I thought I’d head onto some of the Southern Trains that they run to see what passengers think of the service, and the profits they generate.
In a rather poetic turn of events the first Southern train I wanted to catch, the 05:47 from Victoria to East Grinstead, was delayed.
Source: Guardian Transport
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