Fury At Southeastern Trains Epic Snow Fail

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 100 months ago
Fury At Southeastern Trains Epic Snow Fail

Photo reportage by Tom Royal
And the award for biggest overreaction to the forecast snowpocalypse goes to: Southeastern Trains. We told you yesterday that they were planning to run a revised service, but what nobody knew until this morning was that would involve just two trains an hour on each Metro route and that at 8.36pm a large "Gone Home" sign would be hung on the doors of Charing Cross. That's right: South East London is, in effect, cut off this evening.

It's no wonder SE Londoners are apoplectic with rage. We spotted tales of constantly full trains from Hither Green and Blackheath this morning - for some poor souls who absolutely had to get into work, there was nothing for it but to try other means of transport or just walk. It would be understandable if we were under the fabled 40cm of snow but, looking outside our Lewisham window, we can report there's not enough snow on the ground to cover the tops of a pair of very flimsy shoes with a tiny fluttering of flakes drifting from the sky. To compound the ludicrousness, Londonist caught the 23.44 train out of London Bridge last night, when the snow was bucketing down, without any problems at all.

We've left messages for Southeastern, asking how long this is planned to continue and whether they'll be offering any sort of compensation, and will update this post when/if we hear anything. In the meantime it seems there's little to do but fume silently (or loudly, whichever is your wont) and contemplate secession from the rest of the capital.

Update 7 January: We've had word from Southeastern - read the full statement after the jump.

"The decision to run a revised timetable was made based on the advice from Network Rail, who has responsibility for the track and they decide what service we will be able to provide.

They were out overnight with de-icing trains and we also ran ghost trains around the entire network, not just in London.

To ensure that we were able to provide a reliable service throughout the entire day and have the right staff and rolling stock in place for the evening peak, when the worst of the snow and ice hit London, we needed to run the revised timetable from the morning, as it would have been almost impossible to implement at the last minute for the afternoon. Our trains also come into London from across Kent where they will, of course, also be subject to the snow and icy conditions found there.

We told passengers at the earliest possible moment on Tuesday of the revised timetable through texts, emails, station notices, onboard announcements, station announcements and providing extra staff at stations, as well as advising the media of the plans.

The revised timetable remains in place for today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) and we are asking passengers to check with National Rail Enquiries for services and to check when their last train home tonight will be."

We think it's fair to say this statement doesn't deal with the many questions commuters have. Greenwich and Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford is trying to get some answers out of Southeastern, citing normal running of the Jubilee line and DLR, and we wish him luck in his quest.

Last Updated 06 January 2010


shouldn't that be "Fury At Southeastern Trains Epic Snow Fail Chaos"? ;)


Bloody joke isn't it. They're a disaster.


I used to work for BR in Kent. I was a driver, and then worked in logistics.

Leaves on the line are a real problem. Ice on the third rail is a real problem. None of the available technology to combat that is more than a short term fix lasting very little time.

In the autumn the leaves on the line are akin to black ice on the road. Snow and ice stop the electric power getting from the third rail through the conductor shoes, so the train can move. I've personally see conductor shoes frozen to the third rail in depots, and I've also seen conductor shoes weld themselves to the third rail, when a driver is trying to draw power through ice, and sets up an arc instead.

There has to be a specific number of trains at each location at start of service each morning to run the service. Not enough trains in a specific place means something is canceled. Drivers too, have to be at the right place at the right time to drive those trains.

When the weather is bad, it can truly be a logistical nightmare for the controllers to achieve this. Trains can't usually take short cuts around obstacles like a road vehicle can.

Newer lighter trains don't seem to cope as well as the older heavier slam-door stock did either.

However, have said all that, it does seem to be a great overreaction to something that might happen. I don't ever recall emergency timetables ahead of bad weather. I am sure South Eastern will say it's precautionary, but we could all take that attitude, and stay in bed in case the car gets stuck in a snowdrift from snow that might arrive while we're at work.

Seems to be similar to last year winter, when all the buses were taken off the streets of London.


It's all about money - or rather avoiding to have to pay any out. It seems that the reason they are running a reduced service is that if they try to run a full service & fail, they’re liable for penalties and passengers can claim refunds.

If they run the reduced service they’ve advertised, then they’re not liable. Bastards.


I was just about to post something similar Parky. It has made me so angry today. South Eastern need to know how unhappy we are.


As the snow finally starts to settle in Lewisham I can see the trains struggling tonight, but I agree with parkylondon and lamonb that these advanced cancellations look unbelievably cynical. Southeastern should take a leaf out of First Capital Connect's book when they introduced a revised service during the 'work to rule' strike the other month - they committed to paying compensation according to the original timetable. When Southern and FGW are saying they will at least try to run some trains up to the end of the day, it reflects shockingly badly on Southeastern that they're not even going to bother. Some service, even delayed, would be better than no service at all.

charles dickens london

Gives me the Pip too, bring back steam! On a brighter note, your early posting enabled me to phone my son in SE London to let him know- my daughter in law is pregnant and works in the City, so at least we're grateful for early warning- long live Londonist.


Be fair to South Eastern.

This part of London was ravaged - ravaged I say - by almost a centimetre of snow.

To those who'd accused South Eastern of being useless tossers I'd say this: Too right.


When I saw that services were limited to 2 an hour (and they've already made the service worse after the timetable re-jig), and that even the normally ever-reliable bromley north to grove park branch line was out of action, I thought sod this and did the only sensible thing; drove in. Left Bromley at 7.40 and got to London Bridge in 45 minutes (including petrol stop). Sure, parking and C-charge costs thirty quid, but I couldn't face that depressing feeling of failing to squeeze into any of the trains, and at least i stayed warm and could sing along with my music without being glared at. True, coming home this evening was a drag with an average speed of 3mph. But I'd rather be stuck in Deptford for almost an hour than face the inevitable scrum to get into a station, nevermind actually back onto a train to get home again. Southeastern crertainly aren't doing themselves any favours in order to win friends or sympathy.


Absolutely ridiculous - i have never known anything like it in the 35 years i have been using the Dartford-Charing Cross line. And why stop the Victoria service? I get on at Eltham and by the time we got to Blackheath it was impossible for anyone to get on the train. This in addition to the impossible revised timetable leaves me a in state of constant anger as soon as i leave home/work.


Surely you pay a season ticket on the understanding that you will receive the advertised service i.e. the published timetable. So if Southeastern is incapable of offering this then we should be eligible for a refund. You buy a theatre ticket on the understanding that you will see the whole show. Would the theatre get away with saying after the interval that they weren't going to bother with the 2nd act? Having said that I might as well go home after the 1st act when/if I go to the theatre tonight given that the tossers at Southeastern aren't running a train service after 20h30. There must be a way we can lobby for an early termination of the franchise for these idiots that are insulting the people of South East London.


Madness, that's all I can say... I am one of two people in my company that live in South London. We have both had journeys in to central London of over 2 and a half hours, my colleague actually took over 3 hours. I stood sandwiched in between two other people standing 3 abreast in the aisle between the seats, hardly able to breathe and without anything to hold on to. However, I was thankful that I was actually on the train (having had to let one go from Abbey Wood as it was too full), as we stopped at station after station with more angry people on each platform, unable to board the train. After Greenwich, cries of "Could you move down, please?" were met with a carriage full of laughter, as was the announcement by the driver on eventual arrival at London Bridge: "We hope that this hasn't caused you much inconvenience"!!

When I did finally arrive at work (just after 10am) I had a phone call from my girlfriend telling me that all trains from Charing Cross to Abbey Wood have been suspended... I think I might just start my journey home now - I may get home in time to turn around and come back in again!

This is an absolute bloody disgrace - and to be stranded in the middle of London last night with no trains at all running out of Charing Cross, no provision given for alternative means of travel (i.e. replacement buses, season tickets accepted on buses etc.) They do this for planned engineering works, so why not for planned timetable adjustments?

Colette Patterson

Im not accepting this lame excuse from Southeastern !!

When I got up and watched BBC news they said slight disruption to Southeastern and ( mentioned other lines ).
I went to station at 6am to catch normal train and was then told :
First train would be at 7.37am.
Went home and then came back out to catch 7.37am train and thats when the nightmare began :
The 7.37 train was eta for 8am with no explanation from the station staff on why it was late.
Took Bus to Eltham ( yes buses were running can u believe it and the roads are in worser conditions that than the steel railway lines !!!)and was told train would be here in 10 mins .Not.
The first train that was due in 10mins disappered from the lines (as soon as it was 2 mins away) and was no longer coming.Where did it go ?
Second train was delayed by 20 mins and when it arrived it was bursting to the seams.
Third train came and went right pass (even though the board never mentioned it was not stopping)
At this point its nearly 9am I have been in the Eltham /Mottingham area for 3 hours and have not moved anywhere.
The same thing happened 2 days in a row so the excuse Southeastern gave is not acceptable as even the staff at the station did not know what was happening one minute to the next.
p.s. Wheres did the train disappear to that was 2mins away?Surely they would of known it was not on the line from Dartford 20mins prior!