Last year a number of you got in touch following a survey that showed Abellio Greater Anglia were bottom of a train satisfaction survey. Abellio Greater Anglia run the train service from Forest Gate and Maryland stations.
Anyone who has spent a cold, wet winter morning waiting for the delayed and then cancelled 8.07 and then not being able to fit onto the 8.23 are probably not very surprised.
I emailed them with our serious concerns and asking how they intended to improve the service – they weren’t particularly helpful and the problems have, if anything got worse. So a couple of weeks ago Lyn Brown, our MP, arranged a meeting with Abellio Greater Anglia.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their thoughts via twitter and email for the meeting – we were well armed with your questions, suggestions and concerns!
We met with Jamie Burles, the Managing Director, in Parliament and put your questions to him. The bits in italics are his answers – please note they aren’t necessarily direct quotes but give the general gist!
- The main concern – AGA is failing to provide an adequate service for the level of demand. Which is exacerbated by frequent delays and cancellations.
In terms of breakdowns and technical difficulties we have employed an extra 20 technicians at Ilford, which should start to help.
In terms of demand, at the point of bidding (which was some years ago) we state the amount of services that we will deliver. That was based on passenger demand forecasting, which predicted that demand would fall due to the recession. However, that has not happened. Instead, in your area, we’ve seen growth rates of 5, 6, 7% and the level of service provision is the same as it was four years ago.
Don’t get on the wrong side of Lyn! She was rightly not impressed with this answer. She used the example of the 8.23 service to London Liverpool Street often being so overcrowded no one can get on at Forest Gate or Maryland. This means that there is a gap in service from 8.07 until the 8.33 service. She was persistent that they put on another train during this time.
We can’t because of the modelling – only a certain number of trains can come into Liverpool Street at any point. If we put another train on it would cause delays to thousands of other passengers. Liverpool Street only has four tracks coming into it now. If it was being built today it would have at least eight.
Not a good enough answer – when can we change the timetable and the modelling?
Well we can’t do anything about it as the timetable is only changed in December, May and September.
Still not good enough – can another train passing through open its doors?
Back at the ranch I will ask the questions about the modelling, I commit to doing that, so that an extra train could stop at Forest Gate.
Watch this space…
- Communication problems e.g. when trains are delayed staff don’t know why, the app doesn’t update, etc.
One thing that we are doing is issuing new Samsung tablet/phones to members of staff – over the next four weeks – which will help with the communication problems. At the moment staff are using blackberrys and the internet is too slow. That is changing.
- The state of the trains can be pretty disgusting.
To put into context what we are working with, we make about £4 million a year; the cost of properly refitting a train carriage is around £25 million. However, we are employing 60 extra cleaners, we’ve already recruited 40 of them and they are in training at the moment.
- The price of a ticket – why does it cost more to travel into London from Forest Gate than from Wanstead Park station?
The Government sets the price for fares and as part of the franchise agreement we have to give them a certain amount of ticket fare revenue. The reason there is a difference between the two lines is because the Wanstead Park line is the old ‘misery’ line which mean the Government lowered the cost of using it some time ago
- Disabled people aren’t being assisted at the stations.
We do mystery shoppers and I will make sure we look into this issue for you.
- The timetable for Crossrail.
On the 31st May Crossrail take over running the service. From May passengers will start to see improvements in stations and trains furnishings. By mid-2017 new trains will be up and running, with a new timetable. So in May TfL takes over running the line and will do station redevelopment work as well as refitting the trains. The new proper trains will not come online until the middle of 2017.
- Finally, back to the main issue – so could Crossrail run an additional train set before 2017?
I would make sure you speak to Crossrail immediately – they are going to be the sole decision maker and they have the investment to back it up.
So we have a meeting set up with TfL at the end of March and will continue to fight for a better train service. We will continue to keep you updated, in the meantime continue to send through your thoughts and experiences, and also do log your complaints and questions with AGA here.