British Privatization – a Train Wreck

KeolisGoviaSouth Eastern RailScandal #1Scandal #2

I normally write about important geo-political issues. But today I also write about a train breakdown outside Maidstone. The miscreants this time? – South Eastern Rail.

It seemed to be the First Day of British Summer – fantastic weather. Many passengers had cast aside their winter and even spring clothing. The mood was buoyant. The smart ones had brought supplies of beer. The destination – London Victoria for some, any one of about 8 local destinations for others. There were a few business travellers. Most people were having a day out.

5 minutes after departing from Maidstone, we came to a halt. The ticket collector seemed competent at the start. Plenty of informative messages over the tannoy and face-to-face, lots of apologies and even apologies about the quality of apology. But – 3 hours later – we were still within 2 kilometres of our original breakdown spot.

I engaged the 5-man team in conversation through a semi-open window: What is going on? How long will it take? Who is in charge of the operation to fix the train and to get us passengers taken care of? I want to speak to the Head of South Eastern Rail! and so on. I find out 4 minutes later from the smokers at the sole open door in the whole train that they had been laughing at me while I was talking to them.

There were people on board starting to suffer from de-hydration. One kid at least was crying. Other passengers were getting angry. There was no bottled water – even emergency stock precisely for such events – on board. There was no effective trouble-shooting SER person on the phone, there in person, or anywhere in between. Quite early on, the Ticket Collector complained that he ‘had no communications’ – but he did have a mobile phone about his person.

I told the people in my area of the carriage that they should each get a full refund of their single or return journey – whatever they had paid, in addition of course to getting the journey itself. The Ticket Collector agreed reluctantly in public, but said that he could not announce that over the tannoy, since ‘I do not have that authority’.

I had left Maidstone at 0955. At 1300 hrs we were still stuck there with no effective Crisis Management in place, and no signs of any effective Crisis Management appearing, and with no indication when – if ever – we would get to London or even back to Maidstone.

I did my own thing and got to Kensington in central London about 1610 hrs. It involved hitch-hiking…

The other poor guys I don’t know what happened to them. I hope they got decent treatment and a rapid resolution to their situation, but I doubt it very much… If I had been using my brains I would have taken some phone numbers and checked back with them…..

What does this tell us?

We are fed hogwash that privatization makes organisations more efficient and more effective.

Staff are taught how to do PR but not how actually to resolve problems

Management in most companies are (reasonably) good at handling normal events. Their mettle is tested when problems and/or crises arise. It is the mark of a good company that it handles crises well. South Eastern Rail most certainly did not handle this crisis at all well.

The public are still treated like minions to be used and abused.

The public are not educated in school how to stand up for themselves and demand their rights (in a reasonable fashion). It is still the preserve of people who went to private schools and to universities to know how to get what they want. In this respect, Britain is very much still a class-ridden society.


About alexweir1949

software developer, inventor and innovator, Fraud Proof Voting Systems Inventor, founder of Based in Botswana and Zimbabwe, work everywhere.
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4 Responses to British Privatization – a Train Wreck

  1. alexweir1949 says:

    [Case Ref: 237233] Your Complaint
    Reply to me
    show details 10:41 AM (26 minutes ago)
    Please do not reply to this email. We are unable to respond to emails we receive at this address. If you’d like to email us another question or comment please use our email contact webform:

    Thank you

    Southeastern Customer Relatons

    PO Box 63428, London, SE1P 5FD

    Tel: 0845 000 2222

    Mr Alexander Weir

    Ref: 478773 / 237233

    18 April 2011

    Dear Mr Weir

    Thank you for your email of 10 April.

    I am sorry for the problems that you experienced on your journey from Maidstone East tio London Victoria on the morning of 9 April, owing to a train failure at Maidstone East. Please accept my apologies for this and for the inconvenience caused.

    As with most other service disruptions, our usual Passenger’s Charter compensation arrangements apply. In order that we may assess your claim, please send the daily (or weekly) ticket that you held for this journey to us at the above address. However, if you held a period season ticket, compensation is instead available in the form of a discount when season tickets are renewed, and will apply if we have failed to achieve set performance targets, as per our franchise agreement with the Department for Transport (from the summer, however, we will be moving to the ‘delay repay’ compensation scheme, which means that any passenger delayed by 30 minutes or more can claim compensation).

    Thank you for contacting us and, once again, please accept my apologies for what was clearly a very frustrating and annoying experience for you and for many other passengers.

    Yours sincerely

    David Eustace

    Customer Relations Officer


    Please do not reply to this email. We are unable to respond to emails we receive at this address. If you’d like to email us another question or comment please use our email contact webform:


    This e-mail and any attachments (together “this E-mail”) are strictly confidential and intended solely for use by the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. Unauthorised use of this E-mail (including disclosure, copying and printing for any reason) is strictly prohibited.

    Southeastern denies any responsibility and liability in relation to the transmission and use of this e-mail to the extent permitted by law. Any views expressed by an individual within this e-mail do not necessarily reflect the views of Southeastern.

    Any e-mails sent to Southeastern personnel may be monitored by systems or persons other than the addressee for purposes of ascertaining whether they comply with Southeastern’s policies.

    If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender immediately by e-mail, facsimile or telephone.

    Please visit our website at:

    London & South Eastern Railway Limited is a company registered in England (No.04860660).
    Registered office: 3rd Floor, 41-45 Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6EE.

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