Anyone who has had the misfortunate of travelling on South West Trains over the past couple of weeks will have been stuck in train hell at least once after a spate of recent suicides, with yesterday morning’s Surbiton jumper plunging transport in south west London into chaos. And if that wasn’t enough there was some kind of IT fault so by the time I attempted a journey from Waterloo to Earlsfield at 7pm yesterday the carnage was still in full swing.
Prior to yesterday, and last week’s incident where I sat on a stationery train outside Earlsfield for an hour, I’ve always thought SWT was alright particularly compared to some of the horror stories I’ve heard from colleagues who are reliant on Southeastern. But the lack of information, mad platform hopping and general pandemonium that was allowed to continue unchecked yesterday was a joke. National Rail tickets are not free and therefore treating customers as if you are doing them a massive favour by attempting to provide them with the service they have paid for is not appropriate, especially considering just how much that service costs.
I decided to apply for a refund, but there is no refund form to fill in and you’re advised to email their customer relations department, which I did. Apparently they’re going to get back to me within 20 days. If any other service provider behaved like that they’d be out of business within weeks but with no real alternative to public transport whether it be train, tube or bus, they have us by the short and curlies so to speak. Don’t get me wrong, the London transport system is nothing short of a modern marvel… but… its providers shouldn’t forget that we are still paying customers and deserve a modicum of respect.
But what of the poor soul who did the jumping? According to a representative from the Samaritans, about 200 people per year commit suicide on the railways, costing the rail companies in excess of £15million, with the highest number of incidents amongst men with financial problems and those in deprived areas. With a £5m investment in a strategy for the of preventing suicides both for benefit of those attempting to end their lives and the driver and witnesses, who are invariably traumatised by the event, one can only hope that the incidents will become less frequent. In the meantime if you see someone looking sad on the platform it might be worth giving them a hug…