Information on Disruption: Anatomy of a Southeastern Incident

Credit: @stevepartos

Credit: @stevepartos

Rail companies – including but not limited to Southeastern – seem to have problems giving passenger accurate and up to date information when things go wrong.

We’ve been looking at the information Southeastern supplied on Twitter during the disruption to services through London Bridge on the evening of Tuesday 18 November.

Accurate and up to date information to passengers, particularly during times of disruption, is crucial – and the lack of it is a major cause of passenger dissatisfaction. Good timely information can help passengers delay their journeys or use alternative routes. It also gives some reassurance that the problem is known and that something is being done about it.

Southeastern say that they have invested in technology and organisation to improve the flow of information to passengers. This has included:

  • setting up a “Joint Control Room” with Network Rail so that the people responsible for the track and for the trains are in the same room and can talk to one another.
  • installing a multi-million pound computer system called “DARWIN” so that everyone has “a single version of the truth”.
  • issuing Blackberrys to station staff and drivers in 2011 to ensure they can get up-to-date information immediately. (They are soon to get tablets.)
  • a “Twitter team” now on a 24/7 basis and co-located in the Control Room.

On Tuesday 18 November there were emergency speed restrictions between London Bridge and New Cross after a driver reported a “rough ride”. There were also two broken down trains at London Bridge and a fallen tree on the line between Paddock Wood and Headcorn. Throughout this time the Southeastern website said that there was “minor disruption”, and had no further information; it did not switch to the ‘major incident’ mode with key information on the home page.

We have looked at Twitter from the start of the incident (probably shortly before 1700) to when Southeastern declared it closed at 2353. We have analysed 661 “tweets”, including 100 from Southeastern. This shows:

In short Southeastern yet again fell short of giving passengers accurate, up to date and actionable information.

However in the best British tradition there was a bit of black humour

In the following pages we set out the relevant evidence with a commentary.

Next page: Southeastern slow to get out news of delays


Information on Disruption: Anatomy of a Southeastern Incident — 2 Comments

  1. Wow. Just, wow. Excellent article. I trust David Statham has circulated this to all staff to assist in their learning….

  2. 15 minutes ago our lights went out, along with all neighbours. We have had two texts from the power company telling us what the problem is and when it will be fixed.

    Latest info is below. Why can’t SER do that?

    Update at 23:35 – Our engineers are on their way. We believe the issue to be due to an underground cable fault. We can usually fix a power cut within 2 hours, so we hope to have you back on by 01:00. We’re often able to re-route power remotely around problems of this nature so you may be back on sooner, or your power may go on and off. We’ll better understand the cause and update you when engineers are on site investigating.

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