Steve takes Southern Rail complaints to the top – his latest Croydon Advertiser column
Croydon commuters have put up with a very poor service from Southern Rail over recent months. I’ve had so many complaints from residents who’ve suffered frequent delays, cancellations and over-crowding, but had little information from the train operator to explain what’s going on.
This morning I took part in a summit to hold Southern Rail to account. Commuters spend thousands of pounds a year on a train service that is completely inadequate. It’s hard to think of any other service where customers spend so much money to be treated so badly.
The most important thing is to get improvements in the service so trains run on time. But passengers who have suffered the frustration of frequent delays need a proper apology and appropriate compensation. I called for managers to be present on the concourse to hear for themselves what people think of their services; better communication about delays and service problems; and fairer compensation for passengers who suffer repeated delays. The train companies must feel the financial pain of their failure or they will not have the incentive they need to improve.
Only 12% of delayed passengers claim the compensation they’re entitled to. Clearly it needs to be made much easier to claim. But above all else, I want to see passengers given a bigger voice over train operators like Southern Rail. Rail passengers don’t have the option of switching to another train operator if the one they use is failing, so they need more power to force train companies to listen to their needs. If the company was directly accountable to its own customers I have no doubt we’d see improvement come much more quickly.