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Customer Cabinet

The Southern Customer Cabinet brings together staff and passengers to make recommendations on customer strategy and collaborate on practical improvements.

Working together

We put together the cabinet in 2003 to better understand our customers’ views and needs.

In addition to providing advice and recommendations from a customer perspective, cabinet members have the support and budget for a number of self-generated projects. They are also asked to provide journey feedback as regular users of our network.

This voluntary group is made up of passengers that are chosen to represent a broad cross-section of our users from across our network.

The cabinet is chaired by our passenger services director, Angie Doll.

What we’ve been talking about

At our last Southern cabinet meeting in August, we started with a discussion with Stuart Cheshire, Passenger Service Director for Great Northern and Thameslink trains. Stuart gave a summary of how GTR found itself in the position we did on May 20th and the steps taken to address these industry failings, through to the plan for December ‘18 when we will have the May 20th timetable fully operational. Stuart had been invited to the meeting by panel members given Thameslink services on traditional southern routes had been particularly affected by the disruption.

We then had our second visit from Robert Cogger, communications manager for the Brighton Main Line project, Robert updated the panel on changes to the blockade dates and current operational plans, including continued discussions and advice from members with local knowledge of the stations affected.

The cabinet then discussed the budget they are given to spend every year and specifically their thoughts on funding a customer etiquette campaign. This project is in the early stages and cabinet members were asked to provide the meeting chair with their top five, along with their reasons and any suggestions as to how we focus on that topic.

Our final discussion was about major event management, particularly in light of customer feedback and press interest about rail provision and crowd management at Brighton station for Brighton Pride. Major event management will likely be a core project and focus for the cabinet in the coming year and this served as a great case study with the Gold operations manager answering member questions.

Member profiles

Christopher Grose

Member of the Customer CabinetI live in Crowborough and my typical journey is commuting from there to London Bridge, although I do travel on other routes occasionally.

I applied to join the Cabinet because I remember the days before Southern when the Uckfield Line was truly awful. Southern over the years have introduced the current trains, reintroduced through trains on most services and an earlier first train, and a later last train. The outcome has been a massive increase in customer traffic resulting to the need to extend trains and platforms. It surprises as part of their communication Southern don’t make more of this record. It doesn’t mean that Southern are perfect, and indeed communication is an area where improvements are needed. I am a user of Twitter and can be found on there most days.

Ali Rezakhani

Member of the Customer CabinetHello My name is Ali and I'm one of those people who lives in Brighton but does most of my work in London, So hopping on the train has become a large part of my life.

I do lots of off-peak travel, use the Gatwick Express when flying off for trips and I often find myself getting the last train home after a night out in the Capital.

I work as a Radio Producer, where I create/mix audio to engage with different age groups and demographics to find the best way to communicate with people in a way that's interesting and entertaining.

I want to bring my experiences of my daily travels (good & bad) to the customer cabinet, I hope I can contribute using my skills and viewpoint to help our network become better for our family of passengers across the GTR area.

Sandeep S

I live in Three Bridges and my typical journey is commuting from there to London (Blackfriars and Bridge) and weekend leisure trips to London or Brighton. As a regular traveller I would get caught up in delays and disruption and whilst commenting about it on social media may have got it out of my system ultimately it is not really a pro-active way of working though issues. When the role of cabinet member was advertised I felt it would be a great forum to understand the issues and pro-actively work with the business to help improve the experience for passengers and provide first hand insight to the company about what could be improved.

Andy Legg

Member of the Customer CabinetI'm a regular commute from East Grinstead to London Bridge, along with leisure trips, mainly to London. I joined to understand better what was really happening at a turbulent time for Southern Trains and also bring my 30+ years of commuting experience to the Cabinet. As well as commuting, we often travel to London for leisure (always by train) and further, using trains wherever possible and practical. In 2017 we took a four week trip to Hong Kong, Sydney, New Zealand and San Francisco and managed all the airport and other transfers by using trains, trams, ferries, buses, cable-cars, even a rail replacement bus (in Sydney) but no taxis!

Barbara Spittal

Member of the Customer CabinetI am 61 years old and I live in Cooden Beach – a small village out in the sticks along the South Coast between Eastbourne & Hastings.

My regular journeys on Southern are a mixture of business and leisure and include a variety of destinations such as Portsmouth Harbour, Bexhill, Eastbourne, London Victoria & Gatwick Airport.

I applied to become a member of the Southern Cabinet in the hope that I could create a good balance in terms of the demographics of the Cabinet and provide valuable feedback from a station that, on the grand scale of things, is probably lower profile in terms of passenger numbers but which is equally important in terms of Customer Service on a line that is instrumental in bringing business & leisure passengers to East Sussex.

I was absolutely delighted to be invited to join the Southern Cabinet and thoroughly enjoy being able to contribute to help Southern be aware of the problems its passengers face and to work with Southern to help improve the service for everyone so that ‘travelling by train’ becomes our first choice.

Richard Cutress

Member of the Customer CabinetI live in Shoreham-by-Sea and my typical journey is from there to London Bridge. I joined the Cabinet as this is an exciting time with the completion of the Thameslink Programme and the new timetables being implemented. I spend around 12 hours each week commuting on trains so whether I like it or not they are a large part of my life. I am keen to be involved, and offer my experiences as a Cabinet Member - if we can make even minor improvements to the overall experience we have the potential to improve journeys for thousands of fellow travellers so I feel giving up my time is a worthwhile investment.

Arran Sutherland

Member of the Customer CabinetMy home station is Sutton and my typical journey is from there to Gatwick Airport.

I joined the panel after being regularly frustrated by the lack of consistency & accuracy in information provided to passengers during disruption; I hope that by providing a customer’s viewpoint, the cabinet can work together with GTR & it’s brands to improve the travelling experience for all.

Neil Spellings

Member of the Customer CabinetI travel daily from my home station of Purley on both Southern and Thameslink services into Victoria, London Bridge and Farringdon. In additional to the daily commute, the railway connection has always been strong in the family with both my father and father-in-law both working on the railways, plus the first time I met my lovely wife was at a train station (sadly not a Southern one though!)