Local rail service

This week I wrote to the Transport Secretary about the appalling state of the rail service as a result of the new timetable.

Many of my constituents were unhappy about the changes in any case, and I met the Rail Minister last month to discuss their concerns.  A raft of peak direct commuter services to London Bridge and Clapham Junction from Hassocks have been removed, increasing journey times.

However, matters have been made far worse by the chaotic introduction of the new timetable.  Peak-time services have been withdrawn, cancelled and delayed.  The ‘interim timetable’ introduced this week has created even more uncertainty and disruption.

Any passengers facing this level of disruption would be angry, but for my constituents it is the final straw.  They endured well over a year of serious disruption as a result of the dispute over Driver Only Operated Trains, and further cancellations and delays as a result of the London Bridge upgrade.  The infrastructure of the Brighton and Arun Valley lines is clearly inadequate to meet growing demand, and trains are frequently overcrowded.

These timetable changes cannot be blamed on another party, but are the industry’s own initiative.  The changes may have been intended to improve services overall, but they have manifestly been abysmally planned and executed, and those responsible must be held to account for the failures.  It was foolish for GTR and Network Rail not to foresee the risks of such a big timetable change.  The chaos appears to have been a major unforced error.

The Transport Secretary announced an inquiry into the timetable changes and compensation for passengers.  He said that he would not hesitate to take enforcement action against GTR if it is materially in breach of its contractual obligations, and that “there is unquestionably a large question mark over its future”.  Any such action, including the loss of the franchise, will have my full support.

No more excuses can be made for this company, which has completely lost the confidence of my constituents.  If Network Rail is also responsible their senior managers must also be held to account and if necessary removed. 

In the meantime, I have asked for the Transport Secretary’s assurance that all possible steps will be taken to restore rail services to my constituents as soon as possible.

Alexander Black