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Passengers in Kent and south east London demand ‘punctual, reliable services with enough room to sit and stand’ from next rail franchise

PUBLISHED: 00:01 06 April 2017

Southeastern passengers

Southeastern passengers

Archant

Research has been conducted by independent watchdog Transport Focus after the government launched a consultation last month

Passengers in Kent and south east London are demanding more punctual, reliable services with enough room to sit and stand, according to an independent transport watchdog survey.

A consultation was launched last month into the new south eastern rail franchise, due to start in 2018.

Watchdog Transport Focus has compiled research from commuters in the region, in which they made a number of demands, including the need for the next franchise operator to deal with delays more effectively than the current operator, Southeastern.

According to the research, off-peak passengers are calling for cleaner, more comfortable trains, improved facilities at stations and visible, helpful and empowered staff.

With commuters making up two-thirds of the demand, and most travelling into London in peak hours, Transport Focus says it is eager to see how future bidders for the franchise deal with passengers’ concerns about getting a seat.

Commuters in London and the south east, who face particular challenges just getting on to trains, say their main concern is space to board the train and stand in safety and comfort.

While high speed passengers perceive their service as a premium product they expect to see improvements like wi-fi included as part of the service.

Providing an adequate number of carriages with a layout that meets the range of needs of all passengers travelling across the South Eastern network is also an important requirement for the new franchise, the research claims.

Transport Focus chief executive, Anthony Smith, said: “Time and time again Southeastern passengers tell us they want to see trains running more reliably.

“Passengers are frustrated with the lack of quality, accurate information during disruption to services. When things go wrong passengers want better information.

“They want the company to take ownership and staff to be able to provide help and assistance.

“They want answers to: how long will the delay last? When will the next train run? What alternatives are there?

“We welcome the secretary of state for transport’s ambition set out in the recent consultation.

“As with other franchises, we will be looking for innovation in modern ways to buy tickets and improved compensation when things go wrong.

“This is a great opportunity to boost the quality of south eastern passengers’ experience of their railway.”

David Wornham, passenger services director at Southeastern said in response: “We’ve listened to what both Transport Focus and our passengers have told us and are investing over £70m in improvements in the areas that they said matter the most.

“So far we’ve deep cleaned all of our trains and refreshed the carpets, and we’ve cleaned and repainted all of our stations.

“We’ve spent £2m so that all of our stations have a ticket vending machine, and £500,000 has been invested in new digital information screens.

“Tablets have been given to our frontline staff so that they have real-time information at their fingertips for when disruption happens and when it doesn’t, and there are now 300 more of them out on the network to help our passengers.

“And our latest National Rail Passenger Survey results reflect these investments with overall passenger satisfaction now at 77 per cent - a seven per cent increase since last June - and overall satisfaction with our stations rising from 70 per cent to 78 per cent.

“We’ve seen a 40 per cent growth in passengers since 2006 and we know crowding is an issue.

“We are working with the government on a proposal to bring additional trains to our network sooner, rather than wait until the new contract starts at the end of 2018, and we are hopeful for a positive response.

“We know there is still more to do and we’re finding new ways to work with our industry partners to better the services our passengers receive.

“We’re working closely with Network Rail to improve performance and reduce delays and our joint performance team are working together to ensure our trains run on time.”

Though only launched last month, the consultation has already come under intense criticism, with more than 16,000 people signing a petition urging the government not to cut services from north Kent and Bexleyheath to Charing Cross and London Victoria, saying the plans would make the lives of passengers “a misery”.

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson described the proposals as “unacceptable” last week.

However, transport secretary Chris Grayling defended the consultation, insisting no decisions had been made and that “If the answer is ‘we don’t want you to do that’, we will listen”.

The Department for Transport was also forced to admit some housing figures in the document were “too low” in a letter to Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Teresa Pearce.

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