Broadband and Railways

This week I received an update from the Minister for Culture & the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, on the roll-out of superfast broadband in the South Downs.

The detailed figures on the number of premises which can now receive superfast are available on my website.  The increasing number has been made possible by a programme jointly funded by the Government and West Sussex County Council, together with investment by BT.

It is welcome news that more premises are being connected, and that in a few years every premise will be entitled to get broadband at a reasonable speed.

However, there are still rural premises in the South Downs that will be excluded from superfast speeds which today every household needs.  I will continue to work on behalf of these communities to ensure that their voice is heard and to help find ways to close this digital divide.

Also this week I wrote to the Rail Minister to ask her to clarify what sanctions are available to ensure that Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railways are held to account for their failure to deliver acceptable standards of performance.

This follows a Commons debate called by Sussex MPs earlier this month in which I called for stronger accountability for the railway operators who have failed to meet their own modest performance targets on the Brighton and Arun Valley lines.

Only this week constituents have once again faced further disruption on the service.  Unsurprisingly many people are angry about this and I share their frustration.  I will continue to put pressure on the rail operators to deliver the service improvements which they promised and which my constituents deserve.

While the train operators - especially Southern - receive the brunt of complaints, it is only fair to recognise that 60 per cent of delays are the result of infrastructure failures such as points failing, signals failing or other things going wrong.  So Network Rail bears its share of the responsibility for the problems.

There is a huge - £6 billion - investment in London Bridge improvements and these have contributed to disruption.  It is also true that these lines have seen a huge increase in passengers and the infrastructure is creaking.

These lines clearly need major investment which I will strongly support.  But management has also been poor - and it must improve.