An Open Letter To South West Trains

Dear South West Trains,

I do not blame you for trees falling on the lines. I’m sure high wind causing this is the bane of your existence and it can’t really be avoided.

However, I do blame you for having an absolutely appalling plan of action and completely miscommunicating during such a crisis.

Yesterday (January 25, 2014) I arrived at Southampton Central just before 5pm and got on a train bound for Waterloo only to immediately find out that a tree was on the line between Micheldever and Winchester. Fine. We waited for further information.

Unfortunately, that was not forthcoming – all our train guard could tell us was that it would be “quite a while” (which means maybe up to 2 hours to me, although of course the trees were not cleared until well after that in the end).

So, we ended up sitting on our train for about an hour and 45 minutes without being given any alternative options – we were even told at one point early on that there would be no alternative transport put on due to the adverse weather conditions!

Eventually we were told that there would be a train to Eastleigh in about 10 minutes and people could get off at different stops to get buses to their destinations – at Southampton Airport Parkway for buses to Winchester and Eastleigh for buses to Basingstoke, which is what I needed to do to go on to London. So this train was crowded as everyone piled in to try and get somewhere and most people piled off at Eastleigh and formed what I can only describe as a meteoric bus queue outside.

This is when the even bigger problems started. After about an hour of no buses stopping and no communications whatsoever as we got colder and colder, one police officer turned up and then two coaches. Hooray, we thought! But then, after speaking to one of the drivers, we found out that they had been told to shuttle between Southampton Airport Parkway and Basingstoke, stopping only at Eastleigh to drop anyone off and picking anyone up IF there was room.

Quite clearly this was not going to get any of the people in this hundreds-long queue anywhere, so this is when people started getting very restless. I must admit, by 8:20pm I gave up and phoned my boyfriend’s mum and was luckily offered a lift. Late on in the hour I waited for her, three coaches did turn up but still not everyone was taken.

The toilets at the station were locked at about 9:10pm, which was very unhelpful to all those still stranded there.

I can’t bear to think about what time I would have got to London if I had no one willing to give me a lift – I was four hours late back as it was.

To me you did three unforgivable things: not communicating to people at Southampton (and, presumably, other stations) how long the delays would be and not planning transport at this point; creating a catastrophic miscommunication between members of the public and coach drivers and not despatching anyone to one of the overwhelmed stations to help people; and finally not to my knowledge offering any compensation other than using tickets at other times on different train services – what about the people like me who ended up having to inconvenience friends/family and pay a lot for petrol, or those who gave up and paid huge taxi fares?

After the Christmas flooding issues, you should have been more prepared.

Yours sincerely,

Charlotte Tobitt

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5 thoughts on “An Open Letter To South West Trains

  1. Charles Baldwin January 27, 2014 / 5:04 PM

    I totally agree with you and sympathise. I was on the 1608 from Southampton Airport Parkway which was stopped at Winchester at 1618. We stay on the train for almost 2 hours before being told to get off as there was a train directly behind.

    The whole train having emptied and after arrival the next train and the next was emptied.
    There was no communication except sorry for the delay trees on line until it was announced limited road transport was announced on the tannoy.

    This was after about 4 hours in the cold.

    Staff waited for the buses to arrive they did not, the manager in his warm office had no idea, would not leave warm office, as he ” was the only one trained to use the machines? ”

    Eventually the first coach arrived to take those back to Eastleigh having been sent Southampton to Basingstoke, Then the secoind and the third.

    But there was no road transport provided for those dumped by SWT at Winchester.

    Five hours passed still none.

    A few trains came in to travel to Eastleigh but no one advised anyone that the road transport was Eastleigh to Basingstoke.

    Having once again ventured to the warm office of the manager asking why he had not told us to go back the other way he tried to say he did not know any coaches had been there all. Some station manager excellent communication skills.

    Another train came bound for Eastleigh and i got on, On arrival at Eastleigh i got on a coach at once to Basingstoke, where i got a non stop train to Waterloo.

    I then had to get back to Clapham Junction where on arrival at 2345 i had missed my last Southern train home and had to get a cab. I got home at 0030 instead of 1730 .

    I got back to Clapham 7.5 hours after leaving Southampton, and only because i found out buses were running from Eastleigh. Heaven knows what time if ever i would have got back.

    I could not get hot food as i dare not leave the station for fear of missing a bus or train. SWT provided nothing for me at Winchester . Having phoned to complain today they suggest compensation is not due as it was an act of God, beyond their control?

    Did God arrange the coaches for them, was that his incompetence leaving me and all the other passengers stranded at Winchester I leave you to decide.

    I am appalled at the could not care al less attitude of SWT who are not fit to run this franchise and should be stripped of it at once to allow someone who can to continue.

    • charlottetobitt January 27, 2014 / 7:05 PM

      I am so sorry to hear your story – it sounds even worse than mine. I can’t believe what SW Trains said to you – they should be able to organise coaches in the face of an “act of God”!
      Thank you for sharing, I’ll keep spreading the word.

      • Charles Baldwin January 29, 2014 / 7:11 PM

        Just to let you know i have sent a four page letter of compalint to SWT customer relations, addressed to Tim Shoveller MD at SWT, with a copy to him , The Transport Select Committe and each of the four MP members of the DFT.

        Charlie

      • charlottetobitt January 29, 2014 / 7:22 PM

        Brilliant, that’s good to know. I did email SWT customer relations but have (predictably) heard nothing back yet. I’d love to hear if you get a response.

      • Charles Baldwin January 29, 2014 / 7:36 PM

        try a copy to ‘tshoveller@swtrains.co.uk’ his is their MD and ‘transcom@parliament.uk’ the more they get they may realise there is a problem. Will let you know if and when they reply.
        Charlie

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