Sunday, 2 January 2011

Southeastern ‘Not Fit For Purpose’

Mark Reckless MP calls for 'not fit for purpose' Southeastern Trains to be stripped of its franchise 'as soon as possible’.

Following Southeastern's Nightmare before Christmas where the managing director of the rail firm, Charles Horton, was hauled into Westminster to explain to Kent MPs the company's abysmal failure to cope with the snow at the start of December, Mark has slammed Southeastern's decision to increase season ticket prices by 9% or £276 for hard-pressed commuters in Rochester and Strood.

Speaking on the subject, Mark said:

"I have become increasingly frustrated with Southeastern Trains. I have tried very hard to work with Southeastern to help it deal with the concerns of rail users in the Rochester and Strood area, but I have now come to the conclusion that the company is not fit for purpose.

Southeastern's attitude to its customers is, in my opinion, nothing short of disgraceful. I have received numerous complaints from constituents regarding the level of service, or lack thereof, provided by Southeastern. As a regular commuter myself, I sympathise very strongly with hard-working taxpayers who are basically being held to ransom by a company which appears to have little interest in delivering a decent service to commuters, let alone one that provides value for money.

As a former City economist, I simply cannot make sense of Southeastern's justification for the distribution of the latest fare increases.

The average income in Medway is less than many other areas of Kent, e.g. Maidstone and Faversham (which enjoy comparable fares), and there is very strong competition from local commuter coach companies. One would have thought therefore that Southeastern might use the flexibility it now has to hold fare increases in Medway below the average, yet they are imposing a 9% increase in fares, higher than the 7.8% average they are allowed. Southeastern's actions are looking increasingly commercially self-defeating.

This is not the action of a sensible competitor and is simply unjustifiable. Why should commuters to London from Strood and Rochester pay the same as those from Rainham and nearly as much as those who commute twice the distance from elsewhere in Kent?

Having worked closely with Chris Irvine’s Medway Fares Fair campaign (pictured right), I have long considered, but not previously accepted, their argument that Southeastern should be stripped of its franchise.

However, the distribution of these latest fare increases, combined with the news that Southeastern commuters will not enjoy an automatic season ticket discount despite the pitiful performance in December, suggests that Southeastern Trains is beyond redemption.

The company is simply treating the Kent franchise as a cash cow and does not even appear to be making decisions which are commercially sensible. Southeastern should be stripped of the franchise as soon as possible."


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