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.