Flexible / Part-Time Season Tickets

There is increasing talk of the need for so-called flexible season tickets, given that there is likely to be a permanent increase in those who would prefer not to commute every day of the week. At the same time the impact of the pandemic on railway finances is inescapable. Maybe the latter is likely to delay realisation of the former.

 

 

The solution may lie in part-time season tickets, rather than flexible ones, and we have made suggestions to Southeastern on how this might work. They tell us that the scheme they have lined up for implementation will involve discount for those who need to travel part-time, “providing greater value for the enlarged number of people who will not travel into the office 5 days a week, post-pandemic. This should also incentivise people to travel in at more convenient, quieter times.”

 

Apparently this might become available later this year, although no clear timescale has been given.

Kent County Council Rail Summit

Online Webinar conducted via Microsoft Teams Tuesday 13th October, 2020.

Executive Summary:

This annual event is hosted by Kent County Council and normally takes place every spring in Maidstone. However, this year the event was postponed due to the pandemic and was arranged as an online event.

The event had over one hundred attendees although there was no visibility of the groups represented, it is reasonable to assume that all the usual rail user group and local authorities were online.

The guest speakers were from South Eastern and Network Rail along with High Speed One and KCC.

It must be noted that the technical quality and connectivity was not good especially during the second part of the two hour programme with some presentations either freezing or momentarily lost.

Key points from South Eastern (David Statham)
  • Total focus on maintaining rail services since March and increasing service levels in small steps in response to post lockdown situation

  • Had been given a Direct Award Contract but this was replaced (in common with other train ops) by the Emergency Measures Agreement which is a management contract arrangement whereby the DfT takes the revenue and cost risk and SE are paid a fee to operate the service

  • Safe to travel launched during the late summer, social distancing, enhanced cleaning regimes on both trains and stations combined with one way systems to provide reassurance

  • Face covering compliance very high

  • Since September SE operating 98 percent of timetabled services but with only 25 percent of normal passenger volume

  • SE liaised with over one hundred schools on changing hours of attendance and student flows to adjust service where required and operationally possible ie additional stops/ extra carriages

Key points from Network Rail (Fiona Taylor/ Paul Harwood)
  • Hither Green works completed in July – points, signals and track works had all been carried out to improve the reliability of this key junction on the network

  • Extensive programme of tree and vegetation works carried out

  • More robust approach to litter and graffiti removal

  • More work in the Lewisham area is planned for this Christmas

  • Station upgrades continuing

  • Focus on accessibility schemes

Kent Rail Action Plan 2021 (Stephen Gasche, KCC)
  • SG outlined the new plan but in the context of this year’s unique situation –

  • The public consultation on the plan is available for submission until November 2020

  • South Eastern franchise to continue until at least April 2022 and possibly Spring 2023 to allow for a further procurement process

  • Covid 19 – passenger numbers may not fully recover until 2025 but planning must continue particularly in respect of housing development in Kent and changing commuter patterns

  • West Kent – seek enhancement of the power supply to support more/longer trains

  • Faster journey times on the north Kent lines

  • Focus on the ‘Access for all’ programme

  • Support the extension of high speed service to Hastings and Bexhill

  • Support for signalling upgrade on the key Sevenoaks- Orpington route

  • Desire for improved connectivity between our county and Gatwick

  • Keen to re-establish Ashford stop on Eurostar services as soon as possible but this may not be until 2022

South Eastern Railway Stakeholder Forum – July 2020

Venue: Conducted online via Microsoft Teams due to Coronavirus restrictions

SER held the first stakeholder forum of the year online due to coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings.

Representation from rail user groups was high including our colleagues from Sevenoaks and also local authorities. As some people used Microsoft Teams and other simply joined by clicking on a link, it was not possible to know all the participants.

Presentations were given by David Statham and various members of the South Eastern management team. Network Rail were not represented.

Principal Points – South Eastern

  • Direct Award made to South Eastern by DfT valid from 01 April until October 2021 with an option to extend further to March 2022. The virus has changed the interim position as the business is now being run as a management contract with both revenue and cost risk transferred to the DfT. SE focus now on supporting the country during the recovery phase.

  • Improving capacity and develop proposals for the future timetable – there is a commitment to increase where possible and SE will work closely with NR to this effect. Class 707 trains – 30 five cars to be cascaded from South Western Railway as they become available, these will be used on Metro routes but this should free other rolling stock to strengthen mainline services. No actual timescale as yet.

 

SER Customer Experience

  • SE working with DfT, NR and across the industry to respond to rail transport needs during the current crisis particularly in respect of social distancing, staff and passenger safety and meeting the needs of key workers.

  • Greatly enhanced cleaning regimes for both trains and stations.

  • SE part of a national strategy to develop services during the recovery phase – next service uplift will be on 6th July when around 85 percent of the normal timetable will operate (Note Hastings line trains will increase to 2 per hour meaning that the Tonbridge-TW corridor returns to 4 trains per hourin the off peak.

  • Increasing number of train carriages where possible to assist with more people travelling.

  • Message to public will change from ‘do not travel unless absolutely necessary’ to ‘travel safely if you need to use the train’.

  • Toilet availability and cleaning throughout the day closely monitored.

 

SER – Health and Safety

  • Risk assessments completed with regard to cleaning processes and frequency.

  • Staffing levels on stations increase in line with service increase.

  • Face covering now mandatory on all public transport. Enforcement by the British Transport Police (very few issues thus far)’

  • Installation of plastic screens where necessary.

Community Rail Partnerships

  • SE making additional funds available to support CRP activities across the region and CRPs’ have submitted bids for various projects

  • Funding to be provided for Kent – Medway Valley line and Swale. Sussex and Darenth Valley were also successful in their bids. Two new CRPs’ are being supported in Thanet and the Dover areas.

 

General:

  • Because the forum was online questions were largely submitted ‘live’ on the screen during the presentations. As ever a wide selection but mainly around service levels on the Kent coast, HS1 and the rolling stock cascade. Only one question concerning our patch (not submitted by the association) re the accessibility work at High Brooms (still at feasibility stage?) and there was no update on this. Work to be carried by NR on behalf of the DfT.

  • The online format basically worked if a little ‘clunky’ at times but David Statham did say that this format could be used again although no substitute for face to face meetings Noted – fewer and more focused questions which is good!

  • Major track renewal and point work planned for the Hither Green area this summer.