I recently had a fabulous journey. I was working in the European Parliament in Brussels at 4.30pm and courtesy of Eurostar and Southeastern trains I was 20minutes early at Thanet Council offices for a 7pm meeting. Even with the advantage of an hour coming back that's fantastic.
The last part of my journey was courtesy of Les a taxi driver who may well be the man featured in the Independent. Tracey MacLeod on her way to review Age and Sons restaurant wrote:
“The short taxi ride from station to harbour (courtesy of a driver with 'Love' and 'Hate' tattooed on his knuckles) took us past boarded-up shops and repossessed properties."
She could as a journalist had a chat and asked him a few questions. It would have helped research her piece, instead she relied upon a lazy bit of stereotyping to present an image. Assuming there aren’t two taxi drivers with the same tattoos working in Thanet, she would have found out more about a man who enjoys helping children to school every day as part of his work and takes a pride in his job.
My journey illustrates that with the new super fast High Speed 1 service plus Eurostar, East Kent has a train service that is the best in the country. The pictures are of the new depot for the extra trains at Ramsgate in the Northwood ward I represent.
People know this. They are voting with their wallets. Use of Ramsgate station is booming. Since 2004/5 annual rail passenger usage of Ramsgate station has increased from 800,000 a year in 2004/5 to 1.014 million in 2007/8, that’s a whopping 26% increase, and I predict courtesy of all this investment things are going to get even better.
Margate by the way went from 585,000 to 672,000 a 14% increase, Broadstairs from 449,000 to 537,000 for a 19% increase. Ramsgate is the town that is moving on up fastest! Great more green travel and a massive increase in demand steadily increasing over several years. Surely Southeastern trains would want to provide an even better service and build on this record of growth?
I have seen a letter from Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT Union. In it he writes:
“I have received a report from staff at Southeastern Trains advising me that the company intends to cut 31 Station and Booking Office Staff posts and also reallocate despatch duties to Conductors. I have also been advised that the company intend to have a ridiculously short consultation period with the changes coming into effect on the 13th December 2009."
He goes on to say
“I have written to Southeastern trains and informed them of our opposition to the cuts and changes to our members’ duties. Furthermore I have also advised Southeastern that the consultation timetable is totally unacceptable and unless we receive written assurances that these proposals are withdrawn by 24th November 2009 then this union will be in dispute with the company.”
I cannot understand why when more and more people are using a booming service Southeastern trains want to cut staff. The less frequent ticket checks in the evenings now must be losing considerable money. The earlier closure of the ticket office also makes the station a more attractive place to those who may want to be anti-social . Some nights the only people left on duty are the taxi drivers!
I will be interested to hear what response Southeastern Trains have sent to the RMT with their deadline being today. As a regular rail user I want more staff for the safety of all passengers and to ensure fares are collected, not short sighted cutting of services. let's make the services better and more attractive so more people use the trains and more people are needed to work on the trains, it can be a win-win. My post 11 days ago raised my concerns on how this new regime is being applied. I hope Southeastern will invest in their services as they will have a lot more money thanks to the massive increase in passenger usage from Thanet residents.