Passengers ‘fed up’ of disruption to train services says MP

Rail minister Claire Perry pictured with Nick Herbert in January 2015
Rail minister Claire Perry pictured with Nick Herbert in January 2015

Passengers are ‘fed up’ after another week of disruption to train services in West Sussex, Arundel and South Downs’ MP has suggested.

But Nick Herbert has also welcomed a commitment from the Government’s rail minister Claire Perry to hold the rail operating companies and Network Rail to account.

In her letter to Mr Herbert, Ms Perry explained that a taskforce to examine performance was now meeting monthly, while were in the second of a four year plan and by 2018 the full benefits of the Government’s Thameslink work would be seen.

Mr Herbert said: “I am glad that the rail companies will be held to account for their dismal performance. The last week has seen yet more disruption to the service in West Sussex, and people are absolutely fed up with it.

“While I accept that the full benefit of the infrastructure improvements won’t be felt until the work is completed, I hope it will be made clear to the rail companies that the current state of the service is unacceptable and that people expect it to improve much sooner, as their own performance plan promised a year ago.”

He has repeatedly raised concerns at the performance of Southern, which is part of the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise, including in a House of Commons debate he organised in March.

The minister confirmed that Network Rail are held accountable for their performance through the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) which imposed a £2m penalty last autumn because of poor performance.

In response, Network Rail agreed a repartition fund of £4.1 million to cover a range of performance improvement schemes, including more station management and incident response staff, improved incident management, and better customer management during disruption.

GTR has also been fined for failing to meet their benchmarks on cancellations, and is held to account through their franchise agreement with the Department of Transport, and has also been told to take remedial action including contracting a minimum number of drivers, rolling stock and better customer information.

This will come as welcome news to the many commuters who have suffered major delays or cancellations in the past month owing to driver shortages.

The minister said that she has now set up a monthly South East Quadrant taskforce, made up of representatives from Network Rail, GTR, Southeastern and Transport Focus with the aim of ensuring passengers will see the benefits of improvements.

However she said that the plan would take some time to complete.

Ms Perry added: “We are currently in the second year of a four year plan. By 2018 the full benefits of the transformational Thameslink work will be seen.

“We will return the network to the performance that all passengers deserve, through increased capacity, a new station at London Bridge and robust, durable infrastructure.

“We need to allow time for the plan to be delivered and for the subsequent improvement to performance to be realised.”

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