SRTA writes to Kent Council on London Mayor’s Proposal

Dear Cllr Brazier

We write on behalf of Sevenoaks Rail Travel Association. The Sevenoaks  Chronicle says that KCC is employing consultants to assess the proposal by the Mayor of London for TfL to take responsibility for metro rail services to Dunton Green and Dartford from the Department for Transport. I understand you are looking for answers in a few weeks, although this proposal has been known to us for over a year. We have had a series of discussions with TfL and others about it, and will be happy to pass the results to the consultants.

Although initially sceptical, SRTA is now convinced that the Mayor’s proposal makes sense, not just for Sevenoaks and Dartford but for the whole of Kent and South East London. Continue reading

Passenger Charter Performance

The Passengers’ Charter establishes two performance standards based on the following criteria:

  • Punctuality – the percentage of peak hour trains arriving within 5 minutes of their advertised arrival time (‘Peak’ times are arrivals in London between 7.00 am and 9.59 am, and departures form London between 4.00 pm and 6.59 pm.)
  • Reliability – the percentage of the advertised train service actually operated.

Separate targets and thresholds have been established for Mainline and Metro services. Continue reading

Fare Increase 2012

This year’s increase in the cost of a standard class annual season ticket to London was 5.8%, slightly below the average permitted under the ‘RPI + 1 percentage point’ formula which applies following the concession announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Last year the increase was 7 percentage points higher than the inflation rate! Continue reading

Sevenoaks Station Upgrade

Sevenoaks Station will be upgraded during 2012.  The text of the Network Rail press release describing the improvements is reproduced below, along with an artist’s impressions of the upgraded building.

Network Rail Press Release  24/10/2011 10:00

SEVENOAKS STATION UPGRADE PLANS REVEALED

Network Rail and Southeastern have released details of a major upgrade for Sevenoaks station which will provide modern facilities and better journeys for passengers.

The upgrade, which is being funded through the government’s national stations improvement programme and Southeastern’s refurbishment programme, includes:

– Extending the existing concourse to make it easier to move around for passengers, particularly at the busiest times of the day. This will include installing a wider doorway.

– Renovating the toilets

– Upgrading customer information screens

– New DDA compliant ticket office

– Providing new retail facilities

– Refurbishing the overbridge and stairs to the platforms, plus the staircase to the season ticket holder’s car park

– Extending motorcycle parking and installing double-decker racks to boost bike parking.

– Replacing waiting shelters on platforms 1/2 and 3/4.

Mike Smith, Network Rail’s route enhancement manager for Kent, said: “As well as providing a safe, punctual and reliable train service we must give passengers a better journey experience. The upgrade of Sevenoaks station is a big step forward and will make a big difference for the community and businesses in the town who use the railway for thousands of journeys every day.”

A Southeastern spokesman added: “Providing our passengers with a safe and comfortable environment is important to us. The station is the gateway to Sevenoaks for many and provides the first impression of the town. If we can provide a positive experience then this will help both the community and businesses in the town. We will work together with Network Rail to ensure that we deliver this project with minimal disruption to our passengers.”

The station will remain open to passengers throughout the construction although, passengers will need to use the temporary facilities during some phases of the work.

Details of these temporary facilities are being finalised and will be shared with passengers in advance of work starting.

Preparatory work is expected to start in December 2011, with main construction starting in early 2012. All work is scheduled for completion by Summer 2012.

Views of upgraded Sevenoaks Station

Overcrowding

Passenger surveys show that apart from ‘dealing with delays’, and ‘value for money’ (which is probably in part linked to over-crowding), insufficient room to sit or even stand is the biggest sources of passenger dissatisfaction with the train service. As an article in the Sevenoaks Chronicle demonstrated, the inadequacy of seating, often arising from inexplicably short trains, remains a real frustration. The situation is not helped by reports that the Department of Transport (DfT) is intent on defining away the problem by relaxing its standards.

The allowance for standing room is typically 35% of the number of seats based on 0.45m2 per person. For Southeastern’s class 376 Metro stock the standard is 0.35m2 per person.

‘Passengers in Excess of Capacity’ (or ‘PiXC’) is an overcrowding indicator established and monitored by the DfT. Under the franchise agreements between the DfT and the train operating company (TOC), the operator had an obligation to produce a Train Plan to demonstrate that it was planning its timetable and allocating rolling stock in a way that best reconciled its available capacity with passenger demand to keep overcrowding to a minimum.

The standards set by DfT for PiXC were for loadings of no more than 4.5% above capacity for any one peak and no more than 3% above capacity across both peaks. No penalties were levied on operators which failed to meet these standards, however. The DfT now sets a variety of performance targets for individual TOCs.

The DfT is currently considering how best to measure crowding for future franchises.

How is PiXC measured?

The PiXC measure was applied to trains arriving in London between 7.00 am and 9.59 am and then again for trains departing from London between 4.00 pm and 6.59 pm.

For journeys of more than 20 minutes, which should have covered all commutes using mainline services from Sevenoaks to London, capacity was defined as the number of standard class seats. For journeys of 20 minutes or shorter, an allowance for ‘normal’ standing room of around 35% of the number of seats (the exact figure depended on the type of train) was also added.

Source: Peak crowding and passenger demand” Autumn 2010, Office of Rail Regulation, August 2011 and earlier National Rail Trends Reports.

Overcrowding at an acceptable level?

The chart above compares actual conditions for Southeastern’s services with the standards. (Annual observations below the broader dashed lines indicate that the standard has been met.)

As well as there being a trend improvement, the overcrowding data appear to reflect the economic cycle. The data for 2010 also reflect the introduction of HS 1 services.

Until 2005, separate data were provided for Outer Kent (i.e. Mainline) and Inner Kent (Metro) services and in 2005 the Outer Kent morning peak figure (most relevant for Sevenoaks commuters) was in breach of the 4.25% standard. Unfortunately, these separate figures are no longer published. The Outer Kent data would have enabled us to track the impact of HS1 on the loading of Kent Mainline services.

We remain sceptical of the way the data is compiled. For example, if a mainline train stops at Chelsfield, it is deemed to fall into the ’20 minutes or less’, ‘Inner Kent’ category, so its assumed capacity was increased by around a third because of the addition of the ‘acceptable’ level of standing room factor. In our view this treatment biased the results.

Comparisons with other TOCs

According to the latest data, Southeastern’s PIXC figures compare very favourably with those of other operators (including Govia’s neighbouring franchise, Southern) –