The man running Transport for London on the move has savaged the train operators who run the capital’s commuter services.
In an interview for Management Today, Sir Peter Hendy said “People hate the suburban rail service, they hate it.”
The commissioner is responsible for the Tube and London buses, and the Overground network comprising some commuter lines. TfL is taking over more services in east London, and it is believed the organisation is keen to take over additional trains.
Sir Peter's comments look designed to accelerate that process. He described Southeastern’s trains as “s***, awful”. The train operator runs links from Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge to south-east London and Kent.
The National Rail Passenger Survey, conducted at the end of last year, was sharply critical of the standard of service south and east of the capital. This year, criticism has intensified because of problems at London Bridge - which is being comprehensively rebuilt, while still serving some of the busiest commuter lines in Europe.
The commissioner put the blame for problems on Network Rail, and its CEO, Mark Carne: “The chief exec is a nice bloke and he has this idea about the digital railway and getting the most out of the railway in the next 30 years – but no one is listening because they can't fix London Bridge.”
The main operator at the station is Southeastern, whose trains he described as “like the Wild West”.
Sir Peter also hit out at what he said was “a big philosophical difference” between Transport for London’s approach to the traveller and that of the train operators.
“Lots of people don't travel with us because they want to but because they have to. You can either treat them as a revenue source, mercilessly exploit them, or try to make their lives easier.
“If you make a mistake on your Oyster Card on the Tube, we'll refund it. On South West Trains, they'll fine you.”
His strongest criticism was reserved for the Revenue Protection staff who patrol trains, checking tickets: "Every now and then some people who look like the Gestapo get on and fine everyone they can. It doesn't improve your day, does it?”
The commissioner lambasted the short-term nature of national politics, and contrasted it with the London mayor.
“I've had eight transport secretaries and probably 20 junior ministers, but only two mayors. That sort of consistency really does make a difference.”
He also had harsh words for the RMT, the main union for Tube staff: “We’ve had an RMT ballot about some bloke at Morden who was sacked for failing two alcohol tests. Well, we'll take them on. We've done the right thing. We're a decent employer and we look after people - you've got a job for life here, provided you're prepared to change. We try to persuade people not to go on strike because it's not the right thing to do, but we won't give in.”
Sir Peter earns a salary of £348,000.
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