Chaos on Southend Pier
Passengers are calling for drastic action to be taken after the first 48 hours of the new c2c franchise for Southend Pier went drastically wrong – users of the two-station line reported delays, short trains, overcrowding and ‘shambolic’ rail replacement bus services. The majority of problems seemed to be related to the operator’s decision to introduce a new timetable after taking over the line, and regular users of the pier have described the new timetabling arrangement as ‘baffling.’
Shortly after the franchise began at 5am on Monday morning, regular travellers arrived at the shore-end station to find that 1 in 3 services had been scheduled to begin from that slightly run-down shelter with the Coca Cola machine that never seems to be working. This resulted in many passengers having to walk the first stretch of the pier to find their usual train service, and even at this point our reporters have heard tale after tale of the pier trains being dangerously overcrowded with commuters, pleasure seekers and keen anglers.
According to the CEO of c2c Pier Trains Dew Liam-Rural, the timetable changes were necessary to ensure that there would continue to be sufficient operating capacity along the whole length of the line. He added: ‘While the previous line operator simply ran a ‘point-to-point’ service between the shore and the pier head, this would not be feasible on a true 21st Century rail network. There are now seven stations in total along the pier, with extra services added to deal with the number of whelks who need to use the trains between the pier head and the lifeboat station – during the winter months there can sometimes be more than 35 people per day using the line, and so we need to plan accordingly.’
During the rush hour peak time on Monday afternoon, the entire line ground to a halt when a seagull was hit and killed by a train at the halfway crossing point in the middle of the pier. While this was entirely out of the operator’s control, frustrated passengers have said that the response could have been handled better. Commuter Bill Dabair said: ‘I was waiting at the shore end for more than an hour, and there were no announcements about problems on the line. When a rail replacement bus finally arrived to take us to the pier head, it looked like it was about thirty years old, and for health and safety reasons it wasn’t allowed to travel along the walkway because of pedestrians – the whole bus ended up in the sea.’