The Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association has responded to the Consultation Paper on the 2018 Franchise.
Our recommendations for the next Franchise include:
- the extension of the Oyster-Contactless system to Dunton Green and Sevenoaks, and to stations on the Darenth Valley line between Sevenoaks and Swanley.
- a “carnet” ticket system for part-time and flexible workers, allowing 10 day tickets to be bought at the same daily price as weekly seasons.
- an obligation that ticket machines should sell the cheapest ticket for the journey (in the same way as ticket offices have been obliged to do for years), and no closure of ticket offices.
- staffing at all stations and station toilets to be open throughout train service hours.
- cash purchase of car park tickets to be restored.
- a “turn up and go” service for assisted travel (rather than the 12/24 hours notice requirement at present).
- the extension of HS1 services to Hastings to offer a faster route to the coast and so free capacity on the mainline services.
- new services from Kent to Gatwick.
- all-night services from London via Sevenoaks to Tunbridge Wells.
- retention of the current mix of London destinations for services from Sevenoaks.
- a refund for season ticket holders in case of chronic under-performance, as well as Delay-Repay for individual, long, delays.
We’ve also recommended an overhaul of the structure and incentives of the contract to align the interests of the franchise and its shareholders with the interests of customers. That includes:
- measuring performance by whether customers are on time, not whether trains are on time (and so discouraging “station skipping” and other perverse behaviours)
- recycling into a performance improvement fund the difference (£15.9m in 2015-16) between compensation paid by Network Rail to Southeastern for unscheduled delays and compensation paid to customers. Currently this difference is profit for Southeastern.
- representatives of customers and of local authorities on the board of the operating company.
- obligations to consult on changes affecting customers and to provide information about customer-facing aspects of the business.
Our members’ views were mixed on the proposal to remove First Class seating. We commented that removing First Class would not significantly increase the number of seats (on Southeastern the First Class seats are the same size as Standard Class) and that, if First Class were retained, there should be more flexibility in allowing unused First Class seats to be used by standing passengers who most need them.
We found that there were two main omissions from the consultation paper:
- on capacity the focus was on Metro and High-Speed. But the Network Rail Kent Route Study shows that there is an impending capacity crisis on mainline services. Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells are the busiest individual stations in Kent, and demand for mainline services is forecast to increase 15% by 2023 and 47% by 2043. There is no plan to make the investment necessary to met this.
- While we strongly support the focus on customer service, the Department for Transport only set out a long list of areas needing improvement, and did not set out much in the way of detailed plans to do so.
You can read the full response here.