Thursday, 31 May 2012

Oh my god! Shoes!

So on Jubilee Friday, it was agreed that we should commemorate this momentous moment in some way. Naturally it was decided that the best way to mark this occasion was to have a Best South West Trains Shoes competition. 

Why not join in?! The competition is pretty simple and hey, it could even be fun 

On your commute on Friday morning, take a surruptitious picture of a pair of shoes you think to be a worthy winner

Nothing mean please. Then send them to me. 

I will Retweet 

General consensus will decide the winner 

Winner will be announced. They'll probably be none the wiser, but who knows?! Maybe they'll see it and we can crown them, in some weird and totally unnecessary ceremony?! 

If it proves popular, we will do it again. If it doesn't well, no harm done! 

To get you in the mood is this classic ode to shoes 

Oh my Gad. Shoes

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


Do you remember in the good ol’ days when people read Heat magazine? (Yes chaps, even you did in 2002!) and do you remember the Spotted section: “Dean Gaffney in Nandos, he was lovely”? Well I learnt today, that South West Trains has its own underbelly of celeb activity. Myself, I’ve never seen a single celeb on my journey (booooo) but having had all of the below brought to my attention, I shall keep a beadier eye out from now on.

Big thanks to @mc_larney for coming up with this most glorious of topics to discuss on a (mainly) delay-free commute

Bear Grylls – taking time out of his busy rodent eating life to join the happy throng
Lord Lucan – of course, he gets everywhere
Rob Brydon – doing a great impression of a delayed train, no doubt
Mark Kermode – I don’t know who Mark Kermode is … Just googling… Ah yes, I do.
Graeme Souness
James Bolam – everyone’s favourite miniature grandpa!
Penelope Keith – In First Class one assumes?
Will from the Inbetweeners – Is he the one with glasses… Just googling… Ah, yes he is. I wonder if he leaves his briefcase on the seat next to him?
David Gower
Amanda Holden
Ricardo Fuller
Alistair Stewart – who I am reliably informed is off Police, Camera, Action
Robert Powell
Brian Blessed – surely the best celeb spot of them all?!
Burn Gorman –  WHO?  - ‘im off Torchwood and Layercake, apparently
Danny Dyer – presumably filming World’s Most Dangerous Commutes?
Charlie Dimmock – Is it too long ago to make a bra gag?
Martin Davies – ITV weatherman
David ‘Calamity’ James – No? Too long ago to make the calamity reference?
David Frost – Giving the Nixon treatment to some poor South West Trains employee as his train was delayed
Lord Sebastian of the Olympics Coe – smaller than you’d expect apparently
Mick Hucknall – Although @CllrDaveHowarth maybe mistaken. You sure it wasn’t ‘er off the news programmes?!
Martin Clunes
Zoey Lucker – no idea
Nicola Roberts – she don’t need no good advice, she’s already wasted (that will mean nothing unless you loved Girls Aloud as much as me)
Ali Bastian
Claire Sweeney – I still miss Brookside
Clive James – hopefully offering some pithy commentary on South West Trains delays
Hugh Dennis – apparently offering evils, although he may have just been squinting
Maaaaatt Daaaaamon - although strictly he was just in Waterloo. Whilst we're on him, is it too passe to do the Team America quote? I'm never sure.

And congratulations to the TOP SPOT (as chosen by the inventor of this highly entertaining game @Mc_larney)... Drum roll please...

Winner is snotty Lord Seb Coe followed by 'ol Leslie Grantham & #swtzlistcelebstalker = @PaulHT46 - amazing list of spots!

Friday, 25 May 2012

South West Trains: Montage of Misery - w/c 20th May 2012

The previous montage got so big, that Google wouldn't let me add any more pics. So here we are with a new Montage of Misery. All these pictures are from this week (w/c May 20th 2012) and are indicative of a completely shit train service. Could be any week really. From now on I am going to try and do one of these every week, unless (god forbid) South West Trains service is so darn good that no one sends me any photos. 

This has never happened before, but hey miracles might just happen

Keep sending the pics - normal place @my6percent on twitter or

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

It's Groundhog Day

So May 22nd was a bit like all the other South West Trains delay-filled days. I shouldn’t overdramatize, it’s only 20% of my journeys that are delayed (by 5mins+ or cancelled). So only every 3 days (!)

Like so many of you, I was standing there in the melee at Waterloo. Wasn’t it horrible? I don’t know what is worse the delay itself or that horribly oppressive feeling of being squished up against a ga zillion people all waiting for that glorious nugget of information about which platform to rush to in one big swirling mass. One tweeter described it as being like 28 Days Later. Probably a little rash, but you get the idea.

The longer these delays persist, the less apathetic people seem to be getting and that’s a good thing. South West Trains don’t deserve a deafening silence, they deserve to spend some of their £50 million profit (in 2011) on sorting out their service. And yes, before you even think it, I do realise they can’t be held responsible for suicidal people (or as @SW_Trains decided to call them “A suicidal female”). But they can be held responsible for sorting the ensuing mess out efficiently and politely. There were mentions of abusive staff, or staff who had no idea what was going on… What’s the point of bigging up in the news sites that you’ve ‘drafted in extra staff to help with the issues of commuters’, if they’re just going to stand there and stare blankly as if caught in a train-induced trance? Give them the correct info, or don’t feed them to the wolves. It’s not entirely fair on them.

What seemed to have got lost yesterday was that approximately 10 minutes before the “Suicidal Female” (their words, not mine) there were announcements about signalling problems at Vauxhall. I’m presuming they magically disappeared?! According to all the news reports, you’d think they had never existed. Why do ITV, The Evening Standard, The local rags bother to report something if they’re not going to report the actual story?

If these delays continue to be every 3 days (my own personal experience) then why the HELL should I pay for the pleasure? Why should you? As you’ll see from my previous blogs, it’s so completely impossible to get a proper refund anyway.

Most maddening of all is the feeling of complete helplessness. Nothing any of us can do seems to change anything in regards their service levels. The only bright spot being their twitter feed reports delays efficiently and (mostly) accurately.

I want to help bring about change to this complete monopoly on my journey, I just don’t know how.

Friday, 11 May 2012

The South West Trains Montage of Misery - 11th May

Yesterday Clapham Junction was without power for hours. I thought I'd get loads of pictures that would adequately show you the carnage of shutting Europe's largest train station. Alas, they were all too dark!

Still... there are plenty of other pictures to pour over. Enjoy and keep 'em coming, either to 

@my6percent or

Thursday, 10 May 2012

It's like Thunder, Lightning, your SLAs are Frightening

A guest Blog from @BigDoodyBoy

On the 4th of April I wrote to Southwest Trains Customer Service department complaining about the shocking level of service on my specific line where the level of on-time trains had fallen below 50% over a 2 month period. The upshot of the ensuing conversation was that as a season ticket holder I would be compensated like everyone else for overall service when I renewed my ticket.

Now, as you can imagine, I felt that this was an inadequate response as it did not deal with the specific problems on my line and was also a bit presumptious with regard to my renewal. So incensed was I that I read Southwest Trains Passenger's Charter. This was such an enthralling piece of prose that I sought out other similar reading material, finally settling on the National Rail Conditions of Carriage and both Southern Trains and Southeastern Trains charters as my reading material for train delays.

What has now become clear is that Southwest Trains offer compensation in line with the basic minimum set out in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage while other organisations such as Southern, Southeastern and even Island Line (a sister Stagecoach group company) offer enhanced packages.

So, let's look at what compensation is available to you under the charters. Most importantly, the compensation packages are split into two types: individual event and service level. There is also a distinction between people who hold short term tickets (daily or weekly) and those who hold long term tickets (monthly or annual). As you would expect, those with short term tickets are offered compensation based on events whilst those with long term tickets are offered compensation for both events and overall service levels. So far, this seems pretty sensible. But, as they always say, the devil is in the detail.

Some of the Southwest Trains compensation package seems reasonable for the event type of compensation. For example if you purchase a daily ticket and don't use it because of delay or cancellation, you get an immediate cash refund. Also, if you are delayed for more than an hour and hold a daily or weekly ticket you are able to claim a full refund for that journey. However, monthly and annual season ticket holders are not entitled to claim for these specific events which seems a little unfair. It is interesting to note that both Southern and Southeastern understand that this is unfair and do offer monthly and annual season ticket holders this specific event compensation. They also provide an enhanced package offering 50% discount on delays over 30 minutes. I should point out, however, that Southwest Trains do offer a kind of event type compensation to long term ticket holders under their compensation package for monthly and annual season ticket holders.

In their emails to me Southwest Trains Customer Service department describe their compensation package for monthly and annual season ticket holders as a "special compensation package" which would give the impression that it provides enhanced compensation in comparison with short term ticket types. And indeed on first inspection this would appear to be the case in so far as the package offers compensation for events and overall service.

In terms of the service level compensation package, long term ticket holders will be granted a level of compensation should the number of slightly delayed trains reach around 10% of all peak hour services across all lines. This sounds great until you delve a little deeper to work out how compensation payments are triggered.

Firstly, the metric is an average across all peak services over approximately 6hrs each day or around 50% of all services. But this does little to compensate travellers for specific ongoing problems on a particular line and I'm sure that this is a bone of contention for many who feel unfarily treated by this overall averaging method. However, this is the least of your concerns.

Second, the definition of a late train is based on the arrival time at it's destination and not at points in between. This means that trains running late at all intermediate stations are not counted as late if they arrive at their destination on time. And guess what? The timetables are constructed with approximately an extra 5 minutes towards the end of the journey. How many times have you been running late all through the journey only to end up on time at Waterloo or Reading or Southampton? So, the majority of travellers who experience delays are cheated out of compensation by carefully crafted timetables.

Thirdly, trains only count in the statistics if they call at all the intervening stations. This is why late trains are often made to "run fast" from a certain station. To those already on the train, this is a good thing as they catch up some of the time they have lost. However, it affects a greater number of people at intermediate stops for whom their service becomes cancelled. And it affects an even greater number of people who will not receive compensation for late running trains because the number of late running trains has been manipulated.

Fourth, within the service level compensation, there is a distinction between reliability and availability or late trains and non-running trains. This is another way for Southwest Trains to manipulate the service statistics. With compensation payable only when one or other category breaches the service level, they can ensure that if they approach the late running service threshhold, they can cancel what would otherwise be a late train. Ever noticed how late running outbound trains become cancelled services inbound and vice versa?

Fifth, the number of items outside Southwest Trains control is vast and allows many late services to be discounted. I think we can all understand that Southwest Trains cannot be held accountable if someone jumps in front of a train or is taken ill or if an animal strays on to the tracks. However, Southwest Trains are allowed to discount delays caused by signal, track and power problems which are the responsibility of Network Rail. Note also the careful wording of announcements when it is a little hot or a little cold or a little wet and trains are running a little late. By defining a slightly damp day as "unusual weather conditions" they are potentially allowing the service to be discounted due to the "exceptional weather" clause. To a paying passenger, however, these are perfectly "valid" delays but no compensation is payable.

So, the service level compensation is not customer focussed. There are numerous times when you will be delayed but the delay won't count and the compensation package will not deal with ongoing service problems in one part of the service.

But what about the compensation for events which seems so fair for short term ticket holders and those travelling with other train operators? These are called void days and these are days where it has all gone horribly wrong for a particular "service group" over an entire peak period. When a void day is declared compensation is payable on slightly different terms. I won't bore you with all the details but basically, as a season ticket holder, you will get compensation even if you don't renew. So this is a good thing. Er, maybe not entirely. By declaring a void day, Southwest Trains can remove from the statistics all services in the group over an entire peak period. So, a single compensation payment of approximately 0.2% of your ticket price rather than risk triggering a 10% refund due for overall reliability performance.

Of course, these are only options that are available to Southwest Trains should they wish to hide their real performance and I make no accusation that this is in fact how they behave to cheat customers out of compensation or to present service statistics that are far removed from the real world. I will, however, present my own statistics and leave you to draw your own conclusion. For the year to end Feb 2012 Southwest Trains published statistics remained well within the service threshholds at over 90% and yet my real world experience was that only 68% of my trains were on time.

So, the "special compensation package" is nothing of the sort unless Southwest Trains mean that it is special for the board and shareholders who benefit from increased profitability from non-payment of compensation. With the partnership between Southwest Trains and Network Rail there is now an opportunity to accept joint responsibility, to accept more causes of delay and think about a revised compensation package based on "real world" passenger service experience. For too long we've endured "operating" centric SLAs, now we need passenger service centric SLAs with fair compensation for all.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Curious Incident of The Trucks in the Park

"Isn't it terrible that the prices of South West Trains car parks have rocketed over the last few years?" is something I've read often on Twitter.

Well, imagine the surprise of one commuter, when the priciest of car parks was not available to use because South West Trains contractors were taking up the space, at 8am, on a week day.

No great drama though right? He thought he'd refer it to South West Trains and all would be sorted relatively quickly. @SW_Trains, the WICC, did their very best and contacted the station. The customer talked to the station staff too, whose response was "We're not mind readers, we didn't know it was going on". Well, no, you're not mind readers, but I am presuming you're not blind and can see what frequents your car park?

This has been going on since March:

The Hand of God

In 1986, before he snorted the entire Colombian coke supply, Diego Maradona helped win an important football match with a Hand of God.

Back in the present, South West Trains are winning their enormous profits (not turnover, no, they make millions in actual profit), with similar declarations of religious basis. 

Fair enough, no one can stop lightning, but you can at least mitigate the problems that happen afterwards. Some people were stuck for several hours and there didn't seem to be any contingency for looking after them. 

Many have reported that South West Trains have refuted their claims for a refund because of God. This was my favourite response and is definitely worth copying and retweeting! Thank you @MHDPartnership for letting me share!