Engineering Work at Clapham Junction

Published on 31 October 2004 in , , , , , ,

An open letter to South West Trains…

Dear Sir/Madam

Engineering work is a necessary evil and I’ll never begrudge the fact it has

to happen – as long as the railway companies handle it properly.

However my experience at Clapham Junction today was completely and utterly


We arrived into the station, having board on a Southern train from Balham. We

then proceeded across the bridge to connect with the South West Trains

service to Barnes – only to find a deserted platform.

After some investigating, we spotted the engineering trains and wagons nearby

and made the (correct) assumption that there was engineering work on.

However, there was not one sign to actually say this was no and absolutely no

staff around at all to ask what on earth was going on. Given the huge size

of Clapham Junction and importance of the interchange there, I didn’t exactly

expect the place to be teaming with staff, but there was not even a sign at

the end of platform 5 to tell people what was going on.

In fact the only way that we found out at all what the situation was, was

because one of the engineering staff was walking down the platform.

We then proceeded to walk down the platform to the tunnel and exit, only to

find when we got there that the only way we could get through was to do some

limbo dancing under some flimsy tape. Again – no signs to tell anyone WHY

there was tape blocking off the platform, just tape left in the way. Even

then we didn’t actually know where we were supposed to go. it was only a

guess that we thought that the ticket office nearest platform 5 might be a

good bet. We could easily have walked all the way down to the office near

platform 17 by the looks of it, only to have to walk back again.

It was only then that we actually found ALL the staff – who seemed to be doing

little more than huddling together in the ticket office ignoring the confused

customers wondering how the hell they were supposed to continue their

journey. There was not a single member of staff outside the station to point

people to the correct coach, and it was a mere fluke that we actually picked

the correct one.

To be honest, I am appalled. I am appalled at the quite frankly ridiculous

and farcical situation at Clapham Junction. Given this station is a major

interchange between lines, I would have expected at least SOMETHING on the

bridge to let people know what was going on. A sign perhaps, or even better

STAFF to tell you what was going on. There is an information point on that

bridge for such purposes. Was there anyone actually manning it? No.

I have experienced engineering work on the London Underground several times.

There are always plenty of staff to help passengers get to where they want to

go – to give help and advice. They do not hide and ignore passengers.

They put up signs. They put up blockages so that you don’t have to walk from

one side of the station to the other only to find yourself stuck at a

platform staircase that has red and white tape across it and nothing else.

It is absolutely no wonder that the railway companies have such a bad

reputation in this country if you can’t even get engineering works right.

How hard can it be to plaster signs all over the place? To put up arrows to

point people to the rail replacement bus services? To have staff waiting

around in key areas to let people know what was going on? To pump out

information over the tannoy to re-iterate the message?

How hard can it actually be? This isn’t rocket science. But no, yet again

your company failed to actually come anywhere near close.

As for my return journey, I didn’t even bother. There wasn’t any sign of life

at Barnes to even let people know what was going on, yet alone find out when

the buses were. We gave up and returned by the Underground – an organisation

South West Trains would do well to actually study and learn how to actually

treat customers in situations like this.

Instead South West Trains cocked it up big time, and judging by the general

foul mood on the bus (when we finally found it), it wasn’t just me who found

your service woefully inadequate today.