I look out of my window at a South West Trains 8 coacher to London Waterloo. I am 25 miles from that station and to get there I need to pay £10.10. ]
The train is well known to me, it has graffiti inside the carriages, the wi-fi doesn’t work, it has no carpets, no tables and most importantly it has no toilets.
The last point is important as this train takes 93 minutes to get back to London. That’s an average speedThat of around 15mph, about 60% of the speed of Stephenson’s rocket.
Normally you can expect two of these trains an hour, but today we only have one an hour. I know because I asked whether I could pay half the fare for half the service! You can imagine the response.
If you ask the train company why it takes 93 minutes to travel a distance of 25 miles, you will get a response – “planned track improvements”. These track improvements have gone on for four years and have (at least) two years to go.
But track improvements don’t explain toilet-less trains, or 93 minute train times, or the hopeless customer service which has drivers and guards explaining that you’ll have to complain to something called “customer services”.
If you spend enough time and energy, you might get a £5 or even a £10 voucher from customer services. But you won’t get an improvement in service and you won’t get an apology.
That’s because South West Trains and their compatriots at Southern have got beyond caring what the customer thinks. Frankly, they know they will get the money from the franchise without having to deliver a service to customers.
Coming down from London, there were frequent exhortations from pre-recorded messages on the tannoy, to keep the carriage clean. The passengers were behaving impeccably but i noticed some older people sitting cross-legged.
I noticed a few frustrated passenger trying to use South West train wi-fi and I hear a few comments about the disgusting graffiti we had to see whichever wall of the carriage we looked at.
Let’s be clear – the customer has to come first
It’s not just South West Trains, it’s all the local London commuter networks. They are so used to over-crowded trains that they think treating the customer unfairly is part of the game.