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An open letter to South West Trains

August 13, 2014 5:39 PM
By Alan Hilliar

"Along with hundreds of other local commuters, I suffered the inconvenience and general misery of the massive disruption of trains from Waterloo following Friday evening's lightning strike which knocked out the signals at Surbiton.

Reflecting on how South West Trains (and Network Rail) coped with the lightning strike, I thought you deserved half a cheer and two and half boos.

The half a cheer goes to the guard on a (delayed) train to Woking to (I was trying to catch a connection to Ash Vale). When the train was held by a signal at West Byfleet, he used his initiative (in cooperation with the driver) to open the doors briefly to allow frustrated passengers waiting on the station to get on the train to Woking.

But the general good will of the train and station staff was quite overshadowed by the unimpressive performance of the Network Rail and South West Trains management.

How come a lightning strike can knock out signals? Are thunderstorms a new phenomenon we've not experienced before? Or are Network Rail going to blame "the wrong sort of rain"?

The way that the frustrated (but remarkably patient) commuters on Woking station were treated was almost comical.

Passengers for Ash Vale on Platform 5 were told unequivocally to stay there for the next train only to surge across the bridge when a display suddenly showed their train had arrived on the opposite platform. Hope turned into frustration when disappointed commuters were turned away because the train was "too full".

To our relief and astonishment, the train that came only a few minutes later was also for Ash Vale but arrived almost empty.

It seems incredible that no-one thought about making a simple announcement telling frustrated commuters (and the platform staff) about the change of platform or the full train or that an empty one was following. After all, they know well in advance what trains are coming down the line.

So, if you want more cheers and fewer boos from your frustrated and over charged customers, some better planning on handling bad weather and better communication with passengers if things go wrong, would go a long way to help."