Southeastern Missing Stations To Keep Trains On Time

Southeastern seems to be increasingly adopting a new way of getting its trains to run on time — by not stopping at stations.

Our “favourite” train operating company (see previous posts on epically reduced snow timetables and spectacular communications failures) has been sparking Twitter rage at certain stations in the last few days as trains sail blithely through without warning. At your correspondent’s home station Hither Green, commuters were stunned to see the 0837 not stopping on Tuesday, and this Londonista watched in disbelief as yesterday’s 0850 chugged into the distance.

In what is becoming typical of Southeastern’s communications, there were no indications of alterations to services on electronic boards and station staff were as much in the dark as passengers. We’ve since heard of trains skipping Lee, and a couple of trains yesterday evening started from Charing Cross with fewer stops than timetabled (though to be fair, we’ve seen a photo of at least one destination board showing the truncated journey).

So what’s causing this rash of last-minute alterations? As far as we can make out: punctuality. The Southeastern press office got back to us about Tuesday’s 0837:

[The train] started late (8 minutes) at Orpington… On the occasions such as this, to help get the train back onto its timetable and prevent the delays from growing and growing (because ultimately that 8 minute late start would grow and grow as it missed its scheduled times through complicated junctions such as London Bridge and making its next service even more delayed etc etc), the decision is made to not stop at certain stations… before Hither Green it did not stop at Petts Wood, Chiselhurst and Elmstead Woods.

For the sake of eight minutes, passengers at four stations were left standing (though rumours the train passed a red signal are not true). We know Southeastern have decided to skip stations during the Olympics to keep the timetable, but are surprised to see them applying the principle across the network eight months early. Cynics may wonder if they’re worried about missing punctuality targets and having to offer season ticket refunds, but their average yearly figures are actually looking OK.

Missed stations also mean other trains are more full, contributing to another reason for skipping stations. “Large passenger flow” was the reason given for cancelling two trains yesterday. One question: how exactly are these trains and stations supposed to become empty?

Despite new technology being installed to allow the control room to make announcements at stations (not yet functional), this latest fiasco isn’t filling commuters with confidence that the next snowfall will be any better than the previous few — either in terms of trains actually running, or finding out about them.

We’ve also heard about South West Trains not calling at stations this week. Their press office say such an event would always be announced at stations and on displays — but that’s what Southeastern said. Anyone know any different?

Photo by andrew off-road from the Londonist Flickr pool

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  • http://twitter.com/MW_SW19 Mark Wilson

    First Capital Connect have been known to miss stations out in the past

  • http://tommorris.org/ Tom Morris

    Hey, at least it keeps the overcrowding problem at bay. If you don’t bother to stop and actually let passengers board the train, then the train arrives on time and doesn’t have any overcrowding issues.

    I agree that the primary issue is the lack of communication. The number of times I’ve gone to Charing Cross, been told that there aren’t any trains running and been instructed to go to Cannon Street on the underground. Then at Cannon Street they have two members of staff with absolutely no information about what trains are running. Radios, phones, Internet and yet the train companies are still unable to communicate with station staff: it’s ridiculous.

  • Michael Johnson

    South West Trains does this
    all the time on the line up to Waterloo. I must admit I’m not too
    outraged personally, since my station is a ‘major’ one where the trains
    all stop. But if I lived at one of the missed stations I’d be spitting
    rus…ty nails!
    I’ve even been on a train from Whitby to Middlesborough that skipped
    several stops so it could arrive at the end on time. In that case I
    think it was a slightly academic point because the minor stations on
    that line are barely used – they should be request stops, in my view.
    Punctuality (with its system of penalties for lateness) is nowadays
    only officially measured at a train’s final destination, so anything
    that happens down the line is legally fair game!

  • Gary Williams

    Remember that if your train skips a station you can claim delay repay as this all counts towards the magical 30 minutes refund time.

  • http://twitter.com/inmywindow Emily

    Argh yes!They frequently decide to not stop at Maze Hill, presumably to keep the train running to time. Very, very frustrating on the early morning commute!

  • Anonymous

    There’s an interesting variation on the 163/164 bus route, run by London Buses, as it comes close to Wimbledon. If they’re ahead of schedule, they stop at the last but one stop before the route terminates, for between five and ten minutes. No one ever gets on at this particular stop because it’s too close to the end of the route, so the buses are not stopping that long to ensure people can get the bus they want at the right time. All it does is either force people to get off and walk a short but annoying distance, or makes them late. The unintended but obvious consequence is that everyone gets annoyed as time ticks away. When challenged, the drivers always say they will get into trouble if they don’t do it. It’s a ludicrous box-ticking exercise that benefits no one but middle managers at the bus company.

  • CBW

    This happened yesterday with the 8.59 at New Cross, which flew through at 8.56 (my National Rail app displayed “Departed 3 minutes early”). How helpful.

    • Anonymous

      I’d put money on that being the same train that whizzed through Hither Green at 0850. Since it was early I bet it didn’t stop at Lewisham either – where, usually, a lot of people get off and few get on. (The best guess of staff at Hither Green for why it hadn’t stopped was that it was full – the previous train down that line had been cancelled.) So: it wasn’t running late and a station where it could have emptied out was presumably missed. Southeastern, you really are poor.

  • DamnYouSoutheastern

    They managed to cancel both my train TO work and my train home yesterday. They’ve not managed 3 in a row yet but it’s only a matter of time. This delay repay scheme is too generous at half an hour, if it was brought down to 15 minutes people would claim on it most weeks I reckon.

  • cake_time

    My girlfriend has had the 7.09 train not stop at New Cross on two occasions, and the 6.46 once, over the last few weeks. That means a 30 min wait for the next train. These changes weren’t even reflected on National Rail’s live departures service, which I checked just a few minutes before…