/ Travel & Leisure

Have you fallen victim to ‘stop skipping’?

Imagine standing on the platform waiting for your 8am train and watching it whizz past without stopping to let you on. This is called stop skipping and it’s disrupting many train journeys. Have you experienced it?

Some are lucky enough to get on their train, only to find they can’t get off at the right place. This is another form of stop skipping; you’re on a train that skips the station you need to get off at, and you have to get off at the next one and wait for another train going back the other way.

There may be a short announcement about some ‘disruption’ to services, but you’re not quite sure what just happened to your morning commute.

Stop skipping under the spotlight

The practice of ‘stop-skipping’ has been under the spotlight north of the border lately, with a number of MSPs complaining about it in the Scottish Parliament. The Minister for Transport has demanded immediate action, saying ScotRail’s communication to passengers had been ‘unacceptable’.

This all came in the week that Transport Focus’ train passenger satisfaction survey showed that ScotRail performed well overall at 85% (slightly above the UK average of 81%). But on how it dealt with delays, its performance was much lower at just 51%. That’s about half of passengers unhappy with how they are treated when it comes to delays.

Why do trains skip stations?

They mainly do so at rush hour at times of disruption. Certain trains are given the green light to miss out stops on their normal journeys in order to reach their end destinations more quickly and minimise delays.

The Scottish Green Party claimed that it is done to make their Public Performance Measure (PPM) look better; stop skipping is treated as a ‘part cancellation’ in the franchise agreement and looks better than a five-minute delay.

The cost of a few skipped stop claims from consumers (those who know their rights and are motivated enough to claim) will be less than the cost of the fine plus the delay claims at multiple stops along the way.

From my own experience, many of the commuters in Inverkeithing, Croy, Polmont, Burntisland (and many others) who suffer regularly don’t know about this and suffer these disruptions without being informed about their rights for compensation.

What are your rights?

We have advice for delayed train passengers on our consumer rights website. In short, if there is planned disruption and an emergency timetable in place, then consumers are entitled to claim for delays (to the emergency timetable, not the original one) in the usual way via the Delay Repay scheme.

A train that doesn’t stop is then ‘delayed’ by the time until the next train comes, with commensurate compensation. You should always claim for delays, and you can use our tool to find out if you have a right to claim.

Confusing? Yes, we’d rather it wasn’t as complicated as all that, and we’d rather all train companies did what they promise in the timetable. But where this isn’t possible we’ve been campaigning for train companies to ensure that their customers get the compensation they are owed for poor service.

Have you experienced stop skipping on your way to work or on other journeys? What impact has it had on your day?

Comments

This is a regular practice in the south on Southern Rail. The company claims it helps regulate the service and reduce congestion later on, but it’s hard to see that as a big win for all the people stranded on the platform in the cold and rain – even more so when it’s just as chaotic later on anyway due to a hundred other reasons.

A few weeks back my train ran practically empty direct to Victoria – it’s a huge, 10-car service. We passed hundreds of people at the intervening stations, including East Croydon, who will have been forced to squeeze on to whatever later service came their way. Such a waste of capacity.

Steve Butler says:
6 February 2018

This is also regular practice on Southeastern – the worst example was when the pa system didn’t work so no one on the train knew we were skipping the next 4 stops and we went straight to the terminus

Lynn Reid says:
6 February 2018

[Sorry, your comment has been removed to align with our community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]

In this day and age passengers should not have to listen out for inaudible PA announcements. All modern trains should have visual passenger information systems displaying the calling points and should present a warning message if there is any change to the regular pattern. Deficiencies in providing passenger information is one of the biggest complaints in the regular Passenger Focus surveys.

‘Stop skipping’ is probably the lesser of two evils in most circumstances but the train operators need to handle it competently and not become too cavalier about it such that it becomes a routine occurrence. If the timetable is too tight then they should amend it.

Jane Langley says:
7 February 2018

Worthing has five stations, is largest population in whole county of West Sussex, Southern Rail regularly, very regularly, fails to stop at stations along coastal route, only stopping at Worthing (central). People are carried beyond stop, passengers abandoned on platforms with few trains as non metro – no shelter, no facilities (toilets are locked and on one platform only, often completely unstaffed stations). Serious delays to travel if only a few trains per hour, longer travelling with longer waits as non metro to achieve stopping at intended destination, long distances between stations with no alternative transport eg. coastal bus route is nowhere near the train line. Stories that don’t make the headlines for the past two years is that people have given up jobs, students penalised for being late, people missing health appointments, people miss connecting trains pre-booked, late night abandonment of people on dark unstaffed platforms. For ordinary people whose voices are not heard these stories are of extreme stress and frustration, sometimes at great personal financial expense that cannot be recouped.

Since the government effectively runs the railways now I hope you will bring this to the attention of your MP. Unless and until this problem fills their in tray nothing will be done. I also think the Office of Rail & Road has some explaining to do because missing stops and abandoning passengers for timetable convenience is not acceptable.

Not quite on the railway, but I stood waiting for the Heathrow RailAir coach service one cold and rainy November evening, only to see two coaches drive past without stopping. Given that their working frequency is about every 30-40 minutes, that was over an hour in inclement weather at the end of a long-haul flight. Being a bus stop, there is nobody to complain to at the time.

Anna says:
8 February 2018

I commute on the Brighton – Southampton (Southern) line, and this happens to me A LOT. A good rule of thumb is that you can expect it if the train is >7 mins late. That said, it happened to me two weeks ago when my train was bang on time. There’s rarely any warning, just a hurried ‘get off’ message at the previous stop. I have been dumped unceremoniously several times on deserted, unstaffed station platforms in the dark. Not fun.