Keith’s Travel Diary January 2017

Credit: James Crawley

A total of 255 minutes delay (Southeastern 188, Thameslink 67). Not a good month but about half of these minutes due to the freight train derailment at Lewisham.

Delay Repay Claims; total 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016 = £180.00. Two claims outstanding against Thameslink. 1 – 31 January 2017 inclusive = £14.40

Keith is a SRTA member and a regular commuter from Bat & Ball to London via Sevenoaks. Each month he gives his personal experiences and views.

Week of 02 January 2017

Total lateness 6 minutes: Southeastern 1, Thameslink 5

  • Tuesday 03 January – The first working day of the year for me with my new annual season ticket. I decided to stay with a paper ticket in preference to “The Key”. I am hoping that Thameslink have a New Year’s resolution as follows; “We must run our services to time, along the advertised route without missing out any stations we are due to call at”. I arrived at Bat & Ball in time to catch the 06.16 to Blackfriars in case there were any problems with the 06.24 to Sevenoaks. On arrival at the station I was surprised to see the information screen showing all services as being on time. There has been a worsening of the lighting at Bat & Ball Station over the Christmas and New Year break; there are now two lights not working on platform one and one on platform two. Both platforms have one light that is flickering on and off.
  • Wednesday 04 January – An unexpected deviation from my usual journey to work via the Minor Injuries Unit at Sevenoaks Hospital. I continued my journey travelling direct to Blackfriars from Bat & Ball on the 09.46 departure which was one of the new Class 700 trains. This was my first long journey on a Class 700 train and it confirmed my initial opinions of them. The window seats are only suitable for very small people due to the restricted available space caused by the small seat base, the coach side and the intrusion of the metal cover over possibly cables/pipes that run along the floor against the coach side (approximately a third of the floor space where feet would ideally rest is taken up by this). There is also insufficient light falling on the window seats making reading difficult if it is a dull day or at night.
  • Thursday 05 January – Lighting at Bat & Ball goes from bad to worse. On platform one there are now three lights not working and one that flickers on and off intermittently. On platform two there is one light not working and one that flickers on and off intermittently.
  • Saturday 07 January – My destination is Leeds today. I travelled to St Pancras International on the 07.03 departure changing trains at Blackfriars. Arrival at Blackfriars was on time. The services between Blackfriars and St Pancras International were not as advised by National Rail Enquiries. The journey to and from Leeds was to time. My return journey from St Pancras International to Bat & Ball included in a twenty-five minutes wait for a connecting service at Blackfriars and a minute early arrival at Bat & Ball. On the approaches to Leeds the train guard advised passengers that if you looked out to the right, (facing direction of travel), you could see Leeds United football ground. He continued, Manchester has its Theatre of Dreams we have a Comedy Playhouse!

Week of 09 January 2017

Total lateness 49 minutes: Southeastern 41, Thameslink 8

  • Monday 09 January – No change in the faulty station light count at the start of the week. Today the 06.31 service to Waterloo East was eleven coaches rather than the usual eight; a low density four coach and a low density three coach unit plus one four coach high density four coach unit. This was busy but the extra three coaches provided seats for those boarding at Sevenoaks, Orpington passengers were not so lucky with only a few obtaining seats. Hopefully this train will remain at eleven coaches to relieve the overcrowding that has been experienced on it since it resumed stopping at London Bridge. The London Underground was on strike today and on arrival at Waterloo East there was no indication at platform level that you could not exit via Southwark. However; I was advised by a colleague that the exit off the platforms towards Southwark was blocked later in the day.
  • Tuesday 10 January – This morning the 06.16 to Blackfriars was shown as being expected two minutes late and the 06.24 on time. This changed to expected 06.25 and then reverted to back on time. In the end the 06.24 was three minutes late arriving at Sevenoaks where it became apparent that Southeastern were not having a very good start to the day. The 06.31 to Waterloo East was expected at 06.40 and the 06.41 at 06.42. There were a lot of people waiting on platform one and somebody said that an earlier service had been cancelled. The 06.31 was eleven coaches again this morning but all low density stock. On Southern strike days this train has been exceptionally crowded on arrival at Sevenoaks. Apart from Southern passengers making their own way to travel on this train apparently Southern are running buses during the peak periods between Haywards Heath and Tunbridge Wells via Uckfield and Eridge, and between Redhill and Tonbridge. Today was no exception and the train was full and standing on arrival at Sevenoaks, just one or two seats free as far as I could see. This service soon became extremely overcrowded when Sevenoaks passengers boarded it; too full for my liking, I decided to wait for the 06.41 which although running five minutes late was only a couple of minutes behind the late running 06.31 service.
  • Wednesday 11 January – On arrival at Sevenoaks platform one was busier than usual, I thought that this was probably due to Southern passengers being bussed to Sevenoaks from Oxted whilst the strike is on. However, upon checking the timetable the first arrival from Oxted in not due until 06.33. The 06.31 was running five minutes late and was eleven coaches again today. Hopefully the formation of this train will remain at eleven or twelve coaches because it is still quite full on arrival at Sevenoaks but most boarding there are getting a seat now. The majority joining at Orpington are still standing on departure though.
  • Thursday 12 January – The 06.24 to Sevenoaks was on time this morning. The 06.31 was a few minutes late arriving at Sevenoaks but only one minute late at Waterloo East. This train was formed of eleven coaches again today and departed with a few people standing, many were standing after the Orpington stop. Due to the weather forecast predicting snow in our area by 18.00 hours and National Rail Enquiries showing that Thameslink trains were being delayed by about twenty minutes I decided to leave early and caught the 15.43 from Waterloo East which arrived six minutes late at Sevenoaks. This just connected with the late running 16.00 departure to Bat & Ball which ran almost to the timing of the delayed 16.21 departure!
  • Friday 13 January – Much to my surprise bearing in mind that the local side roads were covered in ice which made walking difficult the 06.24 Thameslink train to Sevenoaks was on time! The 06.31 from Sevenoaks to Waterloo East was late arriving at Sevenoaks and six minutes late arriving in London. This train was formed of eleven coaches of low density stock again today. It appeared that some people decided not to travel today due to the icy conditions because there were some seats free for customers joining the train at Orpington.

Week of 16 January 2017

Total lateness 60 minutes: Southeastern 36, Thameslink 24

  • Monday 16 January – Another bad start to the week. When I arrived at Bat & Ball Station there had been no improvement concerning the faulty lights and the 06.24 to Sevenoaks was shown as expected at 06.26. The 06.16 to Blackfriars was on time and I did consider travelling on this service. However, the 06.24 was now shown as being on time therefore I waited for this train. A big mistake; the train eventually arrived at Sevenoaks four minutes late at 06.31. At Sevenoaks the 06.31 to Waterloo East was cancelled therefore I waited for the 06.41 service. The 06.41 train was very crowded this morning and I only just managed to get a seat, many did not. I do not expect that any Chelsfield or Orpington passengers found a seat today. Probably unnoticed by the majority of people travelling on the 06.41 service the train was diverted on a “scenic route” and we travelled via Bromley South, Beckenham Junction and Ladywell. Leaving the mainline at Petts Wood Junction and re-joining it at Parks Bridge Junction. Arrival at Waterloo East was twenty-five minutes late. The diversion and subsequent delay was attributed to overrunning engineering works.
  • Wednesday 18 January – The 06.24 to Sevenoaks was late again, after a slow approach to Sevenoaks it eventually arrived at 06.30 just as the 06.31 to Waterloo East was coming to a stand in platform one. I managed to cross the footbridge and board the train just as the doors started to close. Unfortunately, the train was only two low density four coach units today and seats were few and far between. Luckily, I managed to secure one. People were standing on departure from Sevenoaks and I doubt if any Orpington passengers got a seat.
  • Thursday 19 January – My destination is Manchester today. The 06.42 from Bat & Ball was running late and arrived nine minutes late at Sevenoaks. I travelled on the 07.03 to London Bridge which arrived one minute early. On the Underground I had to let two trains go before I could board a Northern Line service to Euston; it was impossible to board them due to the overcrowding. Virgin trains ran to time in both directions between Euston and Manchester Piccadilly.
  • Friday 20 January – The 06.24 was on time this morning. The 06.31 to Waterloo East has changed back to eight coaches, (two low density four coach units), and surprisingly was not very busy today. Most Sevenoaks passengers had a seat, one or two were free for Orpington passengers but people were standing on departure. I have discovered the additional three coach unit that was attached to the 06.31 service recently was a temporary arrangement whilst the Southern Drivers strike was taking place. However, since the Charing Cross services started stopping at London Bridge this train has usually been very overcrowded therefore if it can be lengthened due to strike action on Southern why cannot it be permanently eleven coaches?

Week of 23 January 2017

Total lateness 140 minutes: Southeastern 110, Thameslink 30

  • Monday 23 January – The start of another week and nothing has been done about the faulty lights at Bat & Ball Station. Should somebody be asked how many railway staff does it take to change a light bulb? When I arrived at Bat & Ball Station this morning the 06.24 to Sevenoaks was shown as being on time and the 06.16 to Blackfriars as expected at 06.17. The reason for the 06.17 running late soon became apparent because a fast service to Cannon Street was diverted via Bat & Ball. The 06.24 was late again arriving at Sevenoaks at 06.30. Sevenoaks appeared to be having problems because there was a Hastings bound train on platform one. Just as I was about to cross to platform one an announcement was made advising passengers that the next service from platform three was the late running 06.17 to Charing Cross albeit the platform screens were showing the destination as Hastings and not at 16.17! The 06.17 departed at 06.34 and was routed via Bat & Ball stopping additionally at Chislehurst when it returned to the mainline. Arrival at Waterloo East was twenty-one minutes late at 07.11 but only a nine minute delay to my usual journey. The cause of this morning’s problems was a failed train at Dunton Green. I found out later in the day that this train lost a power pick-up shoe whilst travelling through Sevenoaks Tunnel, this was probably due to recent engineering works not setting the conductor rail to the correct height. A similar incident occurred following engineering works in the New Cross area a little while back. The result was the train became gapped and could not pick up power. I overheard railway staff saying that thirteen pick-up shoes were found within Sevenoaks Tunnel following this incident. There was a knock on effect for the rest of the day and late afternoon trains were especially badly hit with many cancellations most likely due in part to single line working through Sevenoaks Tunnel whilst the problem was dealt with. I intended catching the 16.12 from Waterloo East but this was cancelled, the 15.43 was also cancelled and the 15.48 was delayed by about a half an hour. I actually travelled home on the 15.39 slow service to Sevenoaks. This arrived three minutes late at Sevenoaks just as the 16.30 to Bat & Ball was departing. Another Thameslink train was beside platform three when I crossed the footbridge from platform two. This train was the delayed 16.21 departure to Bat & Ball. The platform information screen indicated that the train was running along its correct route. However, just before it departed an announcement was made advising passengers that the service would be fast to Bromley South. I waited for the 17.00 departure which arrived at Sevenoaks late, departed at 17.06 and was six minutes late at Bat & Ball. My first delay repay claim of the year.
  • Tuesday 24 January – When I arrived at Bat & Ball this morning the information screen at the entrance to the station was advising passengers that there was a derailed freight train in the Lewisham area that was causing problems. When I read this and because I was anticipating problems associated with yesterday’s incident I did consider travelling to Blackfriars on the 06.16. However, I decided to wait for the 06.24 to Sevenoaks which was a big mistake. When the train arrived on time at Sevenoaks I discovered that the 06.31 and 06.41 to Waterloo East were both cancelled and the 06.17 departure was running late, expected at 06.31. Accordingly, I boarded the 06.17 and fortunately found a seat. As the train departed an announcement was made that due to the derailed freight train this service was being diverted to Blackfriars. A slow scenic journey after the Orpington stop was made via Bromley South, Beckenham Junction and Herne Hill eventually arriving at Blackfriars at 07.32. My second Delay Repay claim of the year. According to National Rail Enquiries the 15.43 and 16.12 services from Waterloo East were running to time in spite of the derailment in the Lewisham area. Accordingly, I made my way to Waterloo East intending to travel home on the 16.12 train. When I arrived at the station there were no details of train services displayed on any of the information screens. I made my way to platform C and looked for a member of staff to ask about the current train services that were running. When I spotted a member of staff they were already talking to other passengers, as I approached I heard the platform staff say we don’t know what the next service will be. A passenger suggested to them that National Rail Enquiries was showing details and that they should make an effort to find out what was happening to enable them to pass on the information to customers especially what platform the services were to depart from because all the information screens were still only advising that services were disrupted due to a freight train derailment. This had the desired effect and they did make contact with someone and then passed the current service information to customers. As usual Southeastern’s customer facing staff do not appear to be provided with relevant information to assist customers in times of disruption to services. Why does this continue to happen? The 16.12 service from Waterloo East arrived on time at Sevenoaks. When travelling past the location of the freight train derailment three hopper wagons were noticed off the rails with people surrounding them working on the problem.
  • Wednesday 25 January – This morning BBC Teletext as advising people that Thameslink services were subject to twenty minute delays due to congestion in the Blackfriars area and Southestern services were subject to delay due to yesterday’s freight train derailment. However, National Rail Enquiries were showing services to/from Blackfriars and Sevenoaks to London Charing Cross or Cannon Street as being on time. The 06.24 from Bat & Ball to Sevenoaks was on time but the 06.31 to Waterloo East was running about six minutes late from Sevenoaks. When it did arrive it was already full and standing. On departure many people were standing. I decided that the train was too overcrowded and waited about five minutes for the 06.41 service, this train had many seats available. This train was brought to a stand in Hither Green Station due to congestion in the London Bridge area. After about five minutes we continued slowly past the derailment site where only three wagons could be seen, the rest of the train must have been recovered overnight. It appeared that workers were preparing to right the last wagon that was lying on its side and a locomotive was on site presumably waiting to remove the last three hopper wagons. Arrival in to Waterloo East was fifteen minutes late. I travelled home on the 15.43 from Waterloo East which arrived three minutes late at Sevenoaks. When this train passed the site of the derailment at Lewisham a large crane was just about to lift the wagon which was on its side upright and back on to the track. At Sevenoaks the 16.21 to Bat & Ball was there but no driver was available. Accordingly, I travelled on the 16.30 service which for reasons unknown did not depart until 16.43 and was thirteen minutes late arriving at Bat & Ball.
  • Thursday 26 January – The 06.24 to Sevenoaks arrived there one minute late today. I travelled to Waterloo East on the 06.31 this morning arriving five minutes late. This train was made up of two four coach Class 375 units today. The rear one was high density stock therefore there were a few seats available for Sevenoaks passengers. The leading low density stock unit had people standing when it arrived at Sevenoaks. Many people standing after Orpington but there were one or two unusable seats free.
  • Friday 27 January – When I arrived at Bat & Ball Station this morning both the 06.16 to Blackfriars and the 06.24 to Sevenoaks was shown as being on time. Almost as soon as the 06.16 departed the information screen advised that the 06.24 was now expected at 06.25. This soon changed to 06.27 and I began to think I should have travelled on the 06.16 to Blackfriars. The 06.24 eventually appeared and arrived at Sevenoaks at 06.31, four minutes late. The 06.31 to Waterloo East could be seen arriving at platform one, unfortunately I could not cross the footbridge quickly enough to board it before it departed. Accordingly, I travelled on the 06.41 to Waterloo East arriving there four minutes late but my journey to London today was really delayed by seventeen minutes. When I passed the site of the derailment at Lewisham engineers could be seen working on the track.
  • Sunday 29 January – I needed to travel to North Greenwich this evening to see Black Sabbath play at the 02 Arena. A simple journey you would think, from Sevenoaks to London Bridge then take the Jubilee Line on the London Underground system. It was not however; there was no train service from Sevenoaks to London Bridge, Waterloo East, Charing Cross or Cannon Street. To make matters worse there were various closures on the London Underground system due to engineering works including the Jubilee Line North of Waterloo. The only options available according to the Transport for London Website without a twenty/twenty-five minute walk was take a train service to either Blackfriars or Victoria then change to the Underground with a minimum of two changes to reach North Greenwich. It would have been possible to leave take the Underground from Elephant and Castle with only one change but changing between train and Underground at Elephant and Castle is not ideal. I decided that the best available route was from Sevenoaks to Peckham Rye changing on to a Southern service from Croydon to London Bridge and then the Jubilee Underground line to North Greenwich. The same in reverse when I returned after the event.

Incidents and this month’s issues

Due to various problems, I have travelled on the late running 06.17 from Sevenoaks to Waterloo East on two occasions this month and in the past many times on the 06.41 service when the 06.31 is cancelled, too full to board or the connection from Bat & Ball failed. These trains have had seats available at Sevenoaks whenever I have used them. Regularly the 06.31 from Sevenoaks to London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing Cross is full and standing when it arrives at Sevenoaks. During the recent Southern Drivers strike action this train was formed of eleven coaches rather than the usual eight and there have been some seats available at Sevenoaks. This does indicate that there is stock available to lengthen this train therefore why cannot it be eleven or twelve coaches every day to meet with demand?

Southeastern are currently advising customers that with effect from the 20 February 2017 only full price tickets will be sold on trains. Accordingly, you must purchase tickets before commencing your journey to obtain the cheapest fare. It occurred to me if you start your journey at an unmanned station like Bat & Ball and the ticket machine is not working will you be able to buy a discounted ticket? My SRTA colleagues have been investigating this. On the morning of 31 January 2017 the ticket machine at Bat & Ball was not working; this might be due to vandalism because there is a footprint visible on the screen.

I read recently that Southeastern are to have free wi-fi installed on all their trains by 2018. This article suggested that this may be government sponsored.

It would be very interesting to know how many renewing their annual season tickets before the fare increase at the beginning of January opted for the new “The Key” that Southeastern are promoting. I do not know anyone who chose this in preference to a paper ticket.

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