Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Ramsgate station is booming, so why cut back on staff?

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.


  1. Mark, the whole of Thanet would be boosted by the railway if they extended the times of the last trains coming in from Canterbury and the last Trains going out anywhere. Im well aware that Ramsgate is a terminus but in these days of 24 hour everything and people needing to get home up to 3 o clock in the morning, why are our train times stuck in the 20th Century.
    I was having a wonderful night out in Canterbury recently which was rather spoiled by the fact that i had to get a train at 11:15 to get home. Why not run trains til 1:00 or 2:00am, even if only one an hour, surely this would help in bringing people to and from the area especially at night and mostly friday thru sunday. I saw a wonderful band in margate recently who desevered the 200 people that were there at 10:00 but by 11:00 the majority had gone because they had to get a train home and miss the band they had come to see. In my opinion wasting money on a night out which they didnt get seems a good way to make sure those people never return.
    Train timetables need to be extended even if only at weekends so people can come and go freely without having to rely on a frankly archaic timetable.

  2. Russ

    Not the greatest change but, if I read it right, the new timetable from Dec 13 means the last train from Canterbury to Ramsgate is about an hour later than now.

    The best way to challenge revenue collection issues is to write to the company MD (Charles Horton these days) directly. You could even try a cold email.

    In the days of Michael Holden (when SE was state-run) I once guessed his email might be as simple as his name at the company name dot com and contacted him about this very thing between Canterbury and Ramsgate at a weekend and got a personal reply on the Sunday night!

    You could try the same thing with Mr Horton.

  3. The reason SE Trains think they can cut staff is the same one that KCC are using to cut 700. Both have a captured market. Both believe that frontline services will not be affected. If thats the case what have all of these staff been doing for the last few years. Twiddling their thumbs. KCC never admit to doing anything wrong as we know with their investments etc. So who will cllr Carter and co blame if it proven that KCC were really over staffed and services are not affected?