“Target abuse” by South West Trains


Here’s a true story to do with reliability on the railways and why punctuality targets aren’t always in the passenger’s interest.

The 6.09am from London Waterloo to Windsor normally takes 55 minutes to cover its 24 miles. Not an exacting schedule but one that South West Trains regularly extend to meet weekend engineering works.

I had to travel this train – there was  no other – but I saw it was scheduled to take 93 minutes as it featured a bus to Barnes and a slow stopper round the houses.

I and a band of fifteen passengers turned up at the appointed hour, so did the Driver and the Guard. We got on the bus, they didn’t, they got in a taxi and we met them 45 minutes later waiting for us in Barnes.

So why the taxi?

Well you may have guessed it. If the bus had been late its journey would not have gone against the train company’s punctuality record. But if the driver was on a late bus, the connecting train would have been delayed.

So it was thought better to pay for a taxi rather than allow the 6.55 from Barnes to be delayed.

Ah – but what about the passengers who were on the bus?

Well it turns out that we would have been deemed to have missed our train so could not be deemed to have been late, even though our journey would have been extended beyond two hours.

In the event , the bus made good time and we all made it together to Windsor. We were 40 minutes slower than usual but we were “on time” and we could count ourselves lucky we were not further delayed.

South West Trains, which has become synonymous with these kind of shenanigans , is losing its franchise in a couple of months. Their staff are happy to explain all this to passengers as they are beyond caring.

So much for competition! So much for targets! So much for customer service!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to “Target abuse” by South West Trains

  1. Peter Tompkins says:

    You are unlucky. 55 mins for 24 miles! My service to Waterbeach in Cambs is 59 minutes for 65 miles. As we race through Hertfordshire I wonder how Southern and South West England got such a bad deal out of Victorian railroad construction.

  2. henry tapper says:

    To be fair to South West Trains, the weekday service is charming and you can work on the train. For the past four years, weekend passengers have been at the mercy of re-timetabling- some of it quite bizarre.

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