Sunday, 7 September 2014

A foundation is at the bottom of a building, not the bottom of a customer-satisfaction survey

If you are in agreement with this letter, please RT it so that it can be signed by your twitter name, used to help improve your railway service and reduce your fares.


Update: thank you so much to those who have already RTd, your twitter name is now in the sign-off. Let me know if I have missed any of you. I will now begin to distribute this to relevant media. There has been no response or acknowledgement from Southeastern Railways. However, I was pleased to see a message of support from Tracey Crouch MP. 


An open letter to David Statham, managing director designate, Southeastern Railways


September 2014
Dear Mr Statham,

Congratulations on your appointment. We had asked that passengers, because we are a captive market, could have a say in the recruitment for your role. However, despite our huge stake in your company, we were ignored. Nevertheless we hope that you put our needs as your most important stakeholder before revenue, cost-reduction and hanging onto the franchise with all the profit and consequently personal bonuses it can bring.

We were troubled to see in the press release announcing your appointment that Mr Brown, Go-Ahead Group CEO, described Southeastern merely as part of a 'portfolio'. It is of course much more than that. We, your passengers and salary payers, have little alternative but to pay extraordinarily and unrealistically high fares to use your service, no matter how unreliable it is; many are forced to use you to get to work, interviews, weddings, funerals, football matches and a host of other life events that we are regularly late for or give up on.

Where there is disruption, on each and every occasion it is as though Southeastern has never encountered it before. There is a complete lack of contingency planning, as well as inadequate and contradictory communication. When something goes wrong, it should not have an effect on the entire network; customers should be kept up to date with timely and consistent information.

We were also troubled to see that your PR people saw fit to write you a quote in the press release, in which you cannot surely have noticed the phrase when signing it off: “ looking forward to building on the firm foundations laid by the current management team.” Southeastern Railways came bottom of all rail operators in the recent Which? survey and has been either bottom or thereabouts in every other survey carried out over the last few years. You can also see from twitter how you let people down in return for sums of money you simply do not deserve. A foundation is at the bottom of a building, not the bottom of a customer-satisfaction survey.

Quotes like this that appear to be copied from other companies', which are working in competitive markets, press information lead passengers to believe that you will continue in the MBA-project driven style of management of your predecessor where providing an actual service is incidental to the business of reducing cost at any cost, aggressively driving profit and totally ignoring what is really happening on the rails. Of course you have shareholders to please but I would ask that you revise any targets you have made them aware of in order that you start to look after the audience that should actually be at the forefront of your thinking, and provides much of your revenue. Profit is not a dirty word but when it is your only objective, passengers suffer.

Let us make it absolutely clear. Southeastern's trains are late, short, expensive and often cancelled; this is no foundation upon which you can build a service. The company could not even be bothered to fix the heating that was left on full on so many trains during the summer, even on the most stifling days. You need to start again. And passengers do not believe the reliability statistics quoted. Please do not use them unless you are ruthlessly transparent with them.

What we would like to hear is an acknowledgement that your service is not the shining example that you claim. And then a plan with targets on how you will fix punctuality, short trains, cancellations and provision of information, particularly during disruption. And we want to see a reduction in fares, not an increase. If government subsidies are lowered, take the shortfall from your profits, not us; you have too much of our money already.

Southeastern has been asked through twitter several times how its senior people are bonused on customer service, we have not had a response. Can you now provide this information, showing the targets relative to those on revenue and cost-management? And how customer service is measured?

Mr Statham, we would be pleased to see your reply so that we can work with you to provide the service passengers have always wanted.


Your passengers.

 PS, If any relevant politicians are reading this, many of you have been utterly negligent in this very important aspect of constituents' lives. Some have even responded in a manner that seems as though they want employment at Southeastern.If you take up the cudgel it will be a vote winner. But if you take it up and drop it immediately then please don't bother at all, we’ll tackle it ourselves through social media and other action.