Train service to Victoria had 57 delays in two months

Inside Croydon‘s regular reader is also a regular commuter on the 8.27 from Coulsdon South. Except when it is the 8.29, the 8.32, or the 8.35…

Ticket to ride? Commuter services into London Victoria are notoriously unreliable. Are they even getting worse?

Of the 60 days of January and February, 18 were weekends and one a Bank Holiday. From 42 “normal service” days in the first two months of 2012, that one timetabled service encountered 57 delays.

57. A whole Heinz variety of frustration, lateness and failure to deliver on the very expensive season ticket.

“The odds on getting to Victoria on time are very long indeed,” loyal reader observes, “despite an extra four or five minutes allowed from East Croydon to Victoria compared to the journey in the other direction, presumably to avoid lateness fines.”

What compounds commuter frustration, though, is “customer services” – an oxymoron if ever there was one – provided in replies such as this email received from the “operator”, Southern:

Thank you for your emails of 27 February, which you copied to Chris Burchell our Managing Director. Mr Burchell has read you remarks and asked me to reply to you on his behalf.

I have been in touch with our train performance team, and they have not been able to identify a single cause for the delays you have encountered. Of the most recent 57 individual incidents since 1 January which have lead to any delay on this service sixteen have been because of problems on Southern’s trains, and thirty nine because of problems with the Network. Two more have been caused by problems with another Train Operator’s trains.

The two specific instances which you mention exemplify the variety of problems which can cause these problems.

On 10 February an earlier train was moved into sidings just outside Victoria station (where it was to remain until the evening peak period). Unfortunately on this occasion the driver stopped the train a few yards short, leaving the “tail” of his train obstructing the track into the station. This would account for the message that you were “awaiting platform space”; whilst I accept that “awaiting access to the platform” would have been more precise, it was access to the station that was the problem. It only took a couple of minutes to alert the driver, and get him to move his train on a little further, to resolve the situation. You would, of course, not have seen any trains leaving the station in this instance.

On 27 February the problem was actually with a toilet on the train you were on. This was found to be faulty (and unpleasantly so), so it was decided that the door should be locked, and the area outside the door cleaned. This led to a five minute delay in the train leaving Horsham. As a consequence, when it reached Clapham Junction, it had missed its “slot” on the busy schedule into Victoria., and had to wait a further 6 minutes until a space in the schedule was found.

I fully appreciate that relatively minor but frequent delays such as these can be incredibly frustrating for customers and I’d like to thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We run an incredibly busy and congested railway where during peak periods we run the maximum number of trains the network can cope with, which tests both our trains and the infrastructure on which they operate. As such, there is little margin for error and a small delay to one train has the capacity to have a knock on effect to literally dozens of other services. The delays waiting for a “slot” in which to run into Victoria are typical of these knock on problems.

Our Control team do try to manage this in real time, working with Train Crew and Network Rail Signallers to reduce overall network delay. We also have a performance team who monitor the performance of trains on our network and work with Control, Network Rail and Train Planning to draw up plans to improve the performance of specific trains which frequently fail to meet their timetabled schedule. This process can be complicated due to the number of variables which can affect train running and fixes are not always straightforward, especially where a change to the timetable may be required.

I have passed your feedback onto our Performance and Train Planning and Specification teams for review. Whilst I cannot promise an immediate fix, I can tell you that the information you have provided will be reviewed and where possible, will be acted upon.

Yours sincerely,
Liam Ludlow
Customer Service Manager
Southern & Gatwick Express

No mention of compensation, then?

Anyone else also encountered similar poor service on their daily commute, or have been fobbed off by the likes of Ludlow?

Do let us know: inside.croydon@btinternet.com

  • Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Train service to Victoria had 57 delays in two months

  1. ndavies144 says:

    Well, a full house this week, we were late every single morning. Southern have many ways of getting on your nerves. Everyone knows that the reason you get put on a bus most Sundays is because the line is closed for engineering works. Not on Southern it isn’t: we must call it “improvement works”. Of course it’s nothing of the sort, they’re digging the track up to fix the bits that are at breaking point. If they did any improvement works that ever improved anything we’d all get to work on time.

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