Keith’s Travel Diary September 2016

geograph-3211294-by-paul-farmerA total of 187 minutes delay – Southeastern 59, Thameslink 128.

Delay Repay Claims; total 1 January 2016 to 30 September 2016 inclusive = £87.10 with three claims outstanding against Thameslink

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 05 September 2016

Total lateness 26 minutes: Southeastern 11, Thameslink 15

  • Monday 05 September – The 06.31 service from Sevenoaks was made up of two four coach low density seating units today; before the new timetable (when it was the 06.30) it was made up of one high density and one low density seating units. Accordingly, there were less seats available for Sevenoaks passengers. On departure there were very few empty seats and most people joining this train at Orpington had to stand.
  • Tuesday 06 September – The 06.31 service was again made up of two low density seating four coach units. On departure from Sevenoaks there were about two or three empty seats and most people joining this train at Orpington had to stand. On departure from Orpington the carriage I was seated in was loaded to about 130% with many people standing.
  • Wednesday 07 September – This was my first time using London Bridge since the Charing Cross side of the station reopened on the 28 August 2016. My first impressions were that it currently leaves a lot to be desired and further improvements are needed to the basics. Directional signage is poor locating the correct exit/entrance for your needs is not always obviously. Some display screens to my eye have too small text appearing on them. There are no toilets except for disabled people at platform level and directions from the platforms to the toilets are non-existent. When located, currently the toilets are free but just past the entrance is another set of toilets currently not in use that has a turnstile entrance system. I think that for the large amount I pay for a season ticket the toilets at stations should be free. Perhaps the entrance gates should open when a valid ticket is inserted rather than coins. It appears that the Shard entrance is primarily for Southern passengers and that the Joiner Street entrance is the one intended for Southeastern customers to use. The use of an arrow pointing straight up can be confusing at a station where there are more than one levels. Does it mean up one floor or straight on? This is in use at London Bridge, similar signs at London St Pancras do confuse people exiting the Thameslink platforms wanting to continue to the Midland Mainline platforms. Whilst I was at London Bridge I thought I would look for a copy of the elusive Southeastern timetable number six. There were none on display in the racks in the ticket office but when I asked for a copy at the Information Desk they found a copy for me. I returned from London Bridge on the 16.19 departure: whilst waiting for this service I did not notice any stop signs on the platform indicating where four or eight coach trains will stop along the twelve coach length platform. Many people including myself were in the wrong place when the train arrived and had to move quickly along the platform to be able to board the train. Advanced commuting skills were applied in this situation and I walked past the scrum that had formed in front of the first set of doors and easily boarded and got seat by using the second set of doors from the front of the train. On departure the carriage I was seated in was full with many people standing or sitting on the floor.
  • grand-central-logoFriday 09 September – My destination is Bradford today commencing my journey on the 08.27 from Bat & Ball to St Pancras International arriving three minutes late. I walked to Kings Cross to travel on the Grand Central Trains service to Bradford. My first impressions of Grand Central are that their trains are rough riding at speed and if seated in a group of four seats around a table the table leg is poorly positioned, immediately in front of the aisle seat passengers knee which makes sitting comfortably difficult. The engine noise is also intrusive. The WiFi was free but not very reliable, freezing frequently. Unfortunately, the journey seemed to be very slow and tiring for the distance travelled and we eventually arrived 10 minutes late.

Week of 12 September 2016

Total lateness 63 minutes: Southeastern 8, Thameslink 55

  • Monday 12 September – I returned from Bradford via Leeds for a fast service to Kings Cross. On arrival I walked to St Pancras International intending to catch a train to Bat & Ball. The next service was show on the information screen as being delayed by about nine minutes and because the station was very hot I boarded the first service to Blackfriars and waited for a Bat & Ball train there, here I discovered that Thameslink were having problems. The 19.42 had been cancelled, the 20.12 was running late and the 20.42 was running slightly less late soon after. A new excuse was being used over the PA system, “trains were being delayed due to the emergency services dealing with a prior incident”, this in reality was that a person had thrown themselves in front of a train presumably somewhere North of central London. The 20.12 eventually arrived but by now was shown as running all stations to Bromley South then fast to Sevenoaks, a further delay for me because I now had to wait for the late running 20.42. The 20.42 departed Blackfriars at 21.02 and ran fast to Bromley South thereafter all stations to Sevenoaks via Swanley. I eventually arrived at Bat & Ball at 21.51; yet another Delay Repay form to submit.
  • Wednesday 14 September – The 06.31 service from Sevenoaks was made up of one low density seating and one high density seating four coach units. However, the high density unit was leading when normally it has been on the rear of the train accordingly where I boarded there were only two seats available, fortunately I secured one. A lot of people were standing on departure from Sevenoaks even more on departure from Orpington. About a third of the passengers left at London Bridge.
  • Thursday 15 September – A heavy duty hasp and staple has been fixed to the relatively new equipment cabinet that was put in place near the entrance to Bat & Ball station; we are still waiting for the ticket machine to be installed next to it on the same concrete base. The 06.31 service was made up of two low density seating four coach units today. Where I boarded there were seats available for Sevenoaks passengers and a few left for those joining at Orpington. People were standing on departure from Orpington but not as many as yesterday. The platform information screens at Sevenoaks Station were not working either this morning or this evening.
  • Friday 16 September – A bad start to the day by Thameslink, the 06.24 from Bat & Ball to Sevenoaks arrived there four minutes late just in time to see the 06.31 departing from platform one. The next service to Waterloo East was at 06.41 which was a ten coach networker train and almost empty when it arrived at Sevenoaks. The train arrived at Waterloo East three minutes late. However, overall thanks to Thameslink there was a sixteen minute delay to my journey this morning. This afternoon I heard somebody in my office saying that Southeastern were having problems so I checked on the Internet to see what was going on. National Rail Enquiries advised that due to signalling problems in the Lewisham area disruption to services was expected until about 18.00 hours. I then checked the services from Blackfriars to Bat & Ball, all were shown as “maybe subject to delay”. I decided to leave early and made for the 15.43 departure from Waterloo East. The train was held at London Bridge for a long time and proceeded slowly as far as Hither Green. I began to expect that the connection with the 16.21 departure to Bat & Ball would not be achieved. Fortunately, we arrived at Sevenoaks only two minutes late at 16.15.
  • geograph-20484-by-nigel-freemanSunday 18 September – I travelled on a charter train from Hastings to Haywards Heath today, I boarded at Tonbridge. The train was the preserved former Hastings line Diesel Electric Multiple Unit which was heading for the events at Haywards Heath to celebrate an anniversary of the railway reaching that town. On arrival at Haywards Heath the train reversed and travelled along the freight only line to Ardingly. This route used to continue to Horsted Keynes which is now a station on the Bluebell Railway. After the first run to Ardingly it was intended to run an hourly service from Haywards Heath to Ardingly for those attending the special event. However, it proved more popular than expected and the train departed Haywards Heath regularly as soon as it was full! After the event the charter train ran to Brighton before returning to Hasting via London Victoria. Older readers may recall the engine sound of these trains with fondness!

Week of 19 September 2016

Total lateness 81 minutes: Southeastern 32, Thameslink 49

  • Monday 19 September – A very bad start to the week; as unfortunately is becoming a regular feature of travel by Thameslink the 06.24 from Bat & Ball to Sevenoaks was cancelled. The 06.48 to Luton was shown as on time therefore the 06.24 service probably ran late again and was diverted via Orpington to recover time to ensure that the return working departed Sevenoaks on time. On top of this the 06.16 service from Bat & Ball to Blackfriars and beyond was shown as delayed with about eighteen people waiting for this service on platform one. I thought I would join them as the 06.42 to Sevenoaks was already shown as expected at 06.43. However; the 06.16 did not appear before the 06.42 did therefore I joined this service to Sevenoaks which arrived there at 06.47. I was unable to cross to platform one in time to board the 06.49 departure to Waterloo East, (which appeared to be crowded), therefore I travelled to London on the 07.03 departure. This proved to be a mistake though. At Orpington the train was delayed because there was a fault with it which required the driver to reboot the train. At London Bridge there appeared to be further problems with this train because we were delayed there. I changed to another train and continued my journey to Waterloo East. Overall an hours delay to my journey, another Delay Repay claim but who will pay for this one: Thameslink or Southeastern?
  • Tuesday 20 September – The 06.31 from Sevenoaks to Waterloo East was two low density units again today. In the front four coaches people were already standing when the train arrived at Sevenoaks. There were seats available in the rear four coaches but some people were standing on departure. Orpington passengers only had one or two seats available and on departure many were standing.
  • Wednesday 21 September – Both the 06.24 from Bat & Ball and the 06.31 from Sevenoaks to Waterloo East were on time today. The 06.31 from Sevenoaks to Waterloo East was again two low density units again today with many Orpington passengers standing.
  • Thursday 22 September – Thameslink were running late this morning and the 06.24 from Bat & Ball did not arrive at Sevenoaks until 06.31. The 06.31 to Waterloo East was slightly late arriving at Sevenoaks and did not depart until 06.33. This was lucky for me because I just managed to cross over the footbridge and board this train. At Bat & Ball in the evening I discovered that there were no lights working on the footbridge: I have reported this to Southeastern, so let’s see how long they take to fix it.
  • Saturday 24 September – A charter train was running from Tonbridge to Swanage today. This was made up of twelve mark one carriages hauled by two GB Rail Freight Class 73 Electro Diesel locomotives. I joined the train at Sevenoaks with a few other passengers. It ran to time in both directions and on the outward journey was running early for a while.

Week of 26 September 2016

Total lateness 17 minutes: Southeastern 8, Thameslink 9

  • Monday 26 September –The 06.31 from Sevenoaks to Waterloo East was two low density units again today. There were no seats available for Orpington passengers in the coach that I was travelling in.
  • Tuesday 27 September – There are still no working lights on Bat & Ball Station’s footbridge. The 06.31 from Sevenoaks to Waterloo East was two high density class 375/9 units today. It was extremely busy today in the front four coaches a few people were already standing when the train arrived at Sevenoaks. Where I boarded all the Sevenoaks passengers obtained a seat with perhaps two or three available for those boarding at Orpington.
  • Wednesday 28 September – I did not travel to work today but I did use the Thameslink services to St Albans. I departed Bat & Ball on the 08.27 service and changed trains at Blackfriars on to a Class 377 train purely for a more comfortable journey than a class 319 provides.
  • Thursday 29 September – I needed to take my car in for a service today therefore I travelled to Waterloo East from Dunton Green on the 08.20 changing at Chelsfield on to the 08.32 departure.

Other points

I discovered recently that you can buy from station ticket offices in advance a carpark ticket for any station carpark. For example, a friend recently bought one from either Otford or Sevenoaks ticket office for Tonbridge station carpark valid on the next day.

On Sunday 25 September, BBC travel news advised listeners that there was a bus replacement service for Thameslink services between Oxted and Sevenoaks!

On Tuesday 27 September when I returned home from work I noticed that some graffiti which some people would have found offensive had appeared at Bat & Ball station during the day. Congratulations to Southeastern/Network Rail for removing it overnight.

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