My letter to SE trains - too far?

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Established Member
29 Apr 2003
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Chatteris, Cambridgeshire
After an abysmal performance from SE trains this morning I have spent an entertaining hour this evening penning this letter to them. Too far do you think?

Steve :wink:

Dear SouthEastern,

I am writing to express my deep felt and gut wrenching anger and despair at your service levels from Ramsgate and Dover to London Victoria and London Cannon Street today. It is not a happy tale and I am not a happy commuter, nor am I alone in the special circle of hell your company has reserved for its fare paying ‘customers’ if comments from other commuters attempting to get to London from Faversham this morning are anything to go by.

Where to begin? Well I could rant and rave about the weather, but you would merely cry ‘adverse conditions beyond our control’ and laugh all the way to the bank and your shareholders back slapping AGM. But I have something that can solve this conundrum! Every evening on the TV, after the news, a very helpful man pops up and tells us all what the weather did today. Amazing you may cry, but it gets better. Said man then goes on to forecast weather for the coming evening! He doesn’t even need to sacrifice a chicken and study its entrails – its all done with computers now and is accurate to an amazing degree. He knows when its going to rain, snow, be windy and blow leaves off trees, and he tells us all – for free! He is so good he can even tell us what the weather is going to do in 2 or 3 days time. It’s the stuff of myth and legend that ‘Tomorrows World’ promised all those years ago and its finally come true. As a fare paying commuter on your lovely railway could I make a tiny suggestion – try watching the bloody weather forecast to decide whether you need to grit, de-leaf, or possibly even warn people of potential disruption before they get up at 5:30 am and tramp down to your lovely station in the dark to be met with no trains, no information and a group of sullen bewildered people who call themselves staff but huddle together for warmth and protection in a little hut you kindly provide so they do not have to talk to the general public. You must buy a TV licence though or the lovely licence people will come and give you a stern talking to. Tell you what – jack our fares up above inflation come January and buy one on us.

Ahem, aside from the ‘adverse’ weather which is beyond your control and about which you cannot possibly do anything, let us turn to an issue you may be able to address. I speak of course of the lovely electronic information signs you kindly hang above your platforms to save your staff the bother of lying to us about the time of the next train. Arriving this morning at the aforementioned 5:30am I see my expected train has unfortunately been delayed due to the severe weather (I think it was ice and frost that doesn’t lay on the cars in your car park but has a passionate attraction for your rails, but I digress). Never mind, these things happen and trains are often delayed. It’s a good thing the next train is arriving on time, I will only be delayed by a few minutes. I was attempting to catch the 5:58 train to Cannon Street. So were quite a few other people judging by the grey pallid husks of people waiting on the platform. It turns out that actually no train at all had been through Faversham that morning, but we were all reliably informed by your lovely electronic sign (such a lovely yellow colour don’t you think) that the 6:13am to Cannon Street would be arriving on time and all would be well with the world. Intriguingly the 5:30am train to London Victoria was also due in at 6:13am but a quick check of the lovely electronic signs suggested that these would be on platforms 1 and 2 respectively so we would be faced with a choice – a real treat since privatisation as I am sure you will agree.
There was a small niggling issue I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but eventually I got it. There just happened to be an empty train sitting on platform 2 going nowhere. It had in fact been there since before 5:30am when I arrived at the station but I don’t think anybody noticed it. Well you can imagine, all us commuters were sharing a private joke about how the 6:13am arrival was going to pull up at a platform with a train already on it but we were all sure there wouldn’t be a problem with our beloved service. Do you know what, I am sure you cannot guess, the empty train didn’t move, and the delayed 5:30am train due in at 6:13am didn’t arrive – catastrophe averted! We were relieved I can tell you. Fortunately the 6:13am scheduled to arrive on platform 1 and travel onward to Cannon St did arrive on platform 1. On time as well! The only slight problem was that it was a stopping service to Victoria. Or more precisely it was stopping at Faversham and not going any further. How the people on board laughed when they found this out. Please as punch they were. Rather like Sardines in a can – an apt analogy and I am sure you can picture the scene.
Well those of us expecting to get to London (at least 6 trains worth now, this was the first train into Faversham that morning remember) tried to decide whether a) we wanted to get on a stopping service, b) whether we wanted to chance getting to Victoria rather than the intended Cannon St and c) whether there was actually room for us all anyway. Some piled on in search of the elusive seat ( not in first class mind, don’t want to de-restrict the train and let people who have been waiting for 45 minutes for the first train of the day sit down now do we) while those of us who experienced the terrible ‘February snow flurry’ and were therefore experienced in the art of adverse weather commuting held back for an announcement. Lo there was a sounding of trumpets, the clouds parted and a voice spoke aloud. Actually I made that last bit up. In reality there was no announcement. The electronic sign showed us that the 6:13 had gone on its merry was and the next train, the 6:32 to Victoria was cancelled.
It was at this point a rumour started. It got louder, and louder, until it took on mythic proportions. Apparently the problems we were all experiencing was ice. And it wasn’t far off ice a long way away like you see on the news (you know, that programme just before the weather man without the chicken entrails I mentioned earlier). It was close up ice. In fact it was lurking just outside Faversham station and blocking the path of the trains. Well we strained, and squinted, but we couldn’t see it. It wasn’t lurking on the cars, it wasn’t hiding in the hedgerows. It wasn’t even laying in the station car park. But it was there all right because the rumour said so. Meanwhile the electronic sign merrily told us of all the cancelled trains and continued to lie about the arrival of new ones as if nothing untoward was happening at all.

Lets picture the scene. We have an hours worth of commuters – over a hundred of us by now at a conservative estimate – standing on the platform. We have an empty train going nowhere on platform 2, and a full train going nowhere on platform 1. We have an electronic sign telling us trains are delayed, cancelled or are running on time but in a parallel universe. And we have some SouthEastern staff. Not just any staff, but the crème de la crème of SouthEastern staff. These guys are experts. They can spot trouble a mile off and be inside their little hut before the first commuters even have a chance to form the questions ‘where’s my train today?’ or ‘Is that empty train actually going anywhere?’ Seriously, you should go and take a look at the platform hut on Faversham station. It is about the size of a telephone box. How you get three staff in it at the same time is a cool trick and these guys should be on Britain’s got talent. In fact there is even a telephone in the hut. Don’t tell them but I don’t think its connected to anything. They kept talking into it but they couldn’t tell anyone any information at all about the trains, the weather (no TV in the hut clearly) or why the electronic signs were informing us about trains in a parallel universe. I think they might have been trying to order pizza. They spent so long in there that I was sorely tempted to see if they were still breathing but as I went to enquire they all moved so as not to make eye contact with me so I knew they were fine. I moved back quickly so as not to appear to be threatening to them and they soon calmed down and went back to trying to work out how to order pizza on the phone. Moving to back of the crowd (and it was a crowd by now) in order to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive ice, someone at the front of the crowd deserved a medal. He had managed, at great personal danger to himself, to tempt one of the staff out of the hut to make a statement. It was not a shouted statement for all the crowd to hear, naturally, but a muted whisper which was passed along like a furtive rumour. Apparently there was a ghost train coming. A ghost train! To scare the ice we all thought but no. A ghost train is apparently a train with no passengers on it! Well you can imagine our excitement. We had only seen one of these before. Where was it now. Ah yes – the bloody great thing that had been sitting at platform 2 since before 5:30am. That wasn’t the right kind of ghost train though. It had to be a special ghost train. One that could go and test the rails for ice all the way to Gillingham. If and when it made it without being attacked by the ice, it would signal back (assuming the phone in the hut wasn’t being used to order pizza at the time) and give the all clear. This rumour started at around 6:45am. The ghost train was on its way. Now on a good day it takes you half an hour to reach Gillingham from Faversham, so even if the ghost train departed immediately it would be 7:15 before we received the all clear (assuming the pizza caveat didn’t come into effect and the electronic sign didn’t send the ghost train into the parallel universe of course). The sardine train could then depart (you know, the slow stopping service to Victoria, stops at Longfield, Farningham Road, Back of Beyond and Nowheresville so a little old lady with a smelly yappy dog can get on every other Tuesday to visit her sister). Ice would necessarily cause a slow running service all the way but the old lady wouldn’t mind – today is a Thursday so nobody would get on or off at Nowheresville. Personally I think it stops there to allow a change of air inside the train – gets awfully stuffy standing nose to armpit with the common folk if truth be told.

By this time, I am afraid I must confess I had lost the will to live. I never did see the ghost train. Having missed the early morning train I was supposed to get for my early morning meeting, you know the important one that I got up especially early to be in time for, the lure of the ghost trains imminent arrival, and finding out just how it was going to pass the empty train (but not a ghost train) on platform 2 and the sardine train on platform 1 which were iced in, couldn’t tempt me to stay. I know this wont bother you, I spent over £4,000 last month on my season ticket so its no skin off your nose. You have got my money and the canapés and champagne are on ice for the shareholders AGM already. As a fare paying customer however I would like to make one further suggestion. Could you possibly use some of your vast profits to provide some more comfortable barrels outside the ticket office. Then when you bend us over them and take us up the backside next time we purchase a season ticket we will be sure to feel a little better about the year ahead and know you have our best interests at heart. After all, predicting train times in a parallel universe is an expensive business.

Yours sincerely,

One of the crowd at Faversham this morning.
Excellently superb. Send it.
"Off to the Tower with him! We can't have people criticising our rail network, besides, we've got his money so he doesn't matter any more".

Send it.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that used to happen 50 years ago when I was commuting from Wickford to Liverpool St. and we had steam trains just finishing and swapping over to Electric and the drivers were I think confused, they didn't know which handle to use and the signals were a problem, they thought someone had removed all the semaphore arms overnight.
But there was a consolation to young bloods like myself because there were lots of female company also standing which presented many opportunities for pervs who had had a bad night previously and were still in need of estasy. (not tablets)
So stop complaining and so do what Mrs. Thatcher would have done make good use of any opportunities or do a Lord Tebbit and get on your bike.

Do your best to pay N.I this week and keep my pension coming in.
I feel your pain. I travel with them every day also. However, I find the tub network causes me more regular delays. Tho if SE goes down then I literally can't get to work.
Yes Rob, but at least the virgin customer was doing 500mph where poor old Stevie was immobile and his feet were frozen to the ice.
didn't look as if he suffered from frostbite to his fingers tho. :wink:
Send it and hope they can maintain concentration, I doubt you will get a reply it would confuse them to even try. You must have been seething particularly as you have already paid. Is there a process where you can fill in a 100 forms to get some money back. If it were Japan they would have been be-headed.
Wonderful letter, very well written, amusing and presumably factual. It is apparent that many of us here have enjoyed it and hopefully you enjoyed writing it and have released some of your frustrations.

Sadly that is where it's usefulness ends. The train company officials won't even read it - it just too long.

While I was in Germany in the 60`s they announced the train arriving and by the time they got thru telling where it was going it had left..... :shock: never even seen the dust settle,whaoooo here she comes, get on, get on ..".well wait for it to stop."....I almost got shoved into it :shock: hey quit pushing you krauts....Look out there shutting the door.Man you got to move over there.... :lol: :lol:
I enjoyed the sarcasm but gave up reading before getting to the last two paragraphs.

Personally I'd make it shorter and, if you've not already done so in the paragraphs I've not read, actually tell them what you want (as in a viable request). For example, ask for refund of today's fare or something more ambitious if you think you can get it. It makes it harder for them not to reply and easier for you to chase them for a reply ("where is my refund" v. "please reply and say sorry" - the former being something more likely to have legs).

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