There is a general theme amongst many of those condemned to use SouthEastern that they are totally useless; for examples of this I would urge the reader to have a look at the #southeastern hashtag on any given day, especially during the morning or evening rush.
I tend not to join in with this abuse, despite some of it being really amusing and being about a topic that I tend to get annoyed about myself. And this is why: there are a great many reasons why southeastern are the way they are, and only some of them are their fault. Many are the fault of Network Rail; many are the fault of whoever decided that the network to the south of London didn’t need overhead line electrification and could stick with the third rail; and some are the fault of the governments that ‘privatised’ without giving people any incentive to invest, any room to innovate, or even the opportunity to buy the damn rolling stock. Essentially, southeastern are stuck with a railway built on Victorian underpinnings, with the constant threat of the government taking away their franchise, and with ever increasing demand. What chance do they have of doing things properly?
Today, however, in the midst of snowmageddon ’13, I came to share in some of the hatred.
This morning was bad enough; there’d been no fresh snow for about six hours when I tried to board my usual train, only to find that it was cancelled. Happily, I managed to get the very last standing space on the very last carriage of a train going in the right direction – albeit one that was already an hour late. This mystery train stopped at such exotic (and fairly pointless) places as New Cross, Lewisham and St Johns, instead of bypassing them as the good Lord intended. Due to the previous day’s snow, the end result was me being late to work by around 40 minutes. Not the end of the world, but not pleasant. At least the driver of the train explained what was happening and tried to add a bit of humanity to the journey.
Given how the rails looked during the day, I then decided I’d try to be smart; I’d fuck off early and do a chunk of work from home in the afternoon. A brilliant plan, I’m sure you’ll agree.
And like any plan, it failed to survive first contact with the enemy:
And here’s where I started to really dislike the southeastern operation. We live in a world with computers, and screens, and mobile apps, and drivers having mobile telephones. How, then did southeastern decide to run London Bridge? By letting all the passengers gather on the platforms, give them nothing to go by on the screens, and then randomly shout destinations and platform numbers at them and see how quickly people could run.
Passengers for the Dartford via Greenwich line, please move to platform one where a train will take you to Cannon Street, where I’m told a train might be leaving along that line soon…
Passengers for all stations to Sidcup, please be aware that there is a train for that line currently awaiting departure from Charing Cross.
Passengers for all stations to Sidcup, please be aware that there is now no scheduled service to that line for the next while as the train at Charing Cross is now a Gravesend service…
Passengers for Greenwich via Deptford, the train about to leave platform one is for you…
Each of these trains probably costs seven figures. Each of the drivers is on a decent salary. Could we not work out some fecking way of investing £99 in the cabin of each so that if the Network Rail infrastructure goes down, at least the drive could send a damn message to the stations on the route so that they can tell people what’s going where?
Also: the snow that fell probably amounted to 5 or 6 inches. Whyfor with the panic?
At lease someone liked it: