Southern issue the wrong sort of timetable before any snow

Not a flake of snow has fallen in south London today, but train operators Southern are already flying the white flag in front of expected snowfall tomorrow in Croydon, Surrey and Sussex.

southern-train2It’s not the wrong kind of snow that’s the problem this time, but the wrong kind of railway regulation as Southern – who operate the Gatwick Express trains into Victoria as well as services through Croydon to London Bridge, Brighton, Epsom, Horsham, Portsmouth and Southampton – have rushed out revised timetables for tomorrow, providing for reduced services. In some cases key routes will have only half-hourly services.

With no sense of the contradiction in the statement, the rail franchise said today, “To provide a reliable service it may be necessary to run fewer trains than normal.” The italics are ours.

Southern says that they think that 4 inches of snow could fall on the network on Friday. The real reason behind the changed timetables being rushed out now is to protect the operators’ shareholders’ interests against compensation claims filed by season-ticket-holding passengers who suffer a delayed service.

And so, at the first sign of any adversity, Southern are not even going to try to maintain a decent service in return for the inflation-busting 4.2 per cent increase in rail fares this month.

Southern explain their position saying that, “On a few rare occasions, we may need to introduce a temporary timetable. Together with Network Rail, we have produced contingency plans for rare occasions of severe network-wide disruption, such as when heavy snowfall and icy weather conditions severely affect the railway.”

The BBC weather forecast for Croydon shows snow from midday tomorrow through until Saturday evening. Altered timetables can be seen here.

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6 Responses to Southern issue the wrong sort of timetable before any snow

  1. ndavies144 says:

    That’s typical Southern. You’d think running fewer trains would give the third rail more time to get covered in snow and frozen up, wouldn’t you?

    One of their favourite tricks when there’s problems is to run trains fast to “make up time”. Habituees of Coulsdon South and Merstham know very well that this does no such thing. The lines are running to capacity anyway and all “running fast” means is that they crawl through the stations without stopping to open their doors, then catch up the train in front and still arrive at their final stop as late as ever.

    But abandoning a load of furious people at East Croydon for an hour must save a lot of fines for lateness somewhere else.

    Of course if their weekend “improvement works” (sic) actually improved anything, rather than shore up for another couple of months what’s just about to totally collapse we might not have to put up with all of this.

  2. It might be helpful to remind everyone that Southern are operating under the rules that were agreed by the Department for Transport (DfT) in June 2009, i.e. under a Labour Government.

    I do not see any contradiction between the reliability of the service (i.e. running trains to the timetable) and running fewer trains than normal. The line is operating close to full capacity for most of the day. If the trains run slower or are delayed by the weather then the line’s track capacity falls below the number of trains operated according to the normal timetable.

    So the operator has the choice of reducing the number of trains operated, in the hope that they will run to time, or run most trains late. Since a number of ‘void’ days are permitted in the franchise agreement then it makes sense to try to run fewer trains but run them on time. Having 24 hours advance notice of a train cancellation is better than arriving at the station and finding that your train is running 55 minutes late since you can plan around that problem.

    The Labour Party in opposition in 1993 did state that they would re-nationalise the railways. That did not happen. The Labour Party had every opportunity to change the National Rail system between 1997 and 2010 but did not. The only real change was the introduction of London Overground by the Mayor of London which operates under a different financial agreement (with TfL rather than the DfT).

    • Yes, you’re quite right, Peter. The railways need to be re-nationalised, to get us out of the ludicrous situation created by the Conservatives in which we pay massive public subsidies to ensure that the operators make huge private profits, and all with many services that never improve despite above-inflation fare rises.

      Point-scoring over which hue of government did or did not carry out which policies historically is a favourite past-time of the MP for Croydon Central, who too often uses it to deflect all responsibility for doing the right thing and doing it now.

      And such career politicians wonder why no one’s interested in what they say…

  3. Michael Hall says:

    You’d have thought they’d want to increase the time between Sanderstead and London Bridge to more than 24 minutes if there’s snow, given that they’ve never made that when there’s no snow.

  4. Michael Hall says:

    In fairness, my journey this morning from Sanderstead did indeed take the timetabled 24 minutes. It was 3 minutes late departing, and 3 minutes late arriving.

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