MP says that Southern Railway should "hang its head in shame"
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has said that Southern Railway should "hang its head in shame" after being rated the worst performing train company in the country by passengers.
Mr Herbert was leading led a debate in Westminster Hall last week (Wednesday 8 July) about the performance of Southern Railway and Network Rail.
16 MPs slammed Southern and demanded improvements on behalf of their constituents during the one and a half hour debate.
Last month Transport Focus, the independent passenger watchdog, revealed that satisfaction with Southern currently stands at just 72 per cent.
Mr Herbert said: “According to this authoritative survey, more than a quarter, one in every four, of passengers travelling on Southern are dissatisfied with its performance. That makes Southern officially the worst franchise in England. It has the lowest satisfaction rate of any franchise. The company should hang its head in shame at what passengers are saying.”
The MP pointed out that Southern’s record for punctuality had been deteriorating for some time. The number of trains which were cancelled or significantly late had more than doubled since 2005, and the number of trains on time had fallen significantly since 2010.
Mr Herbert said the trend showed that "neither Southern nor Network Rail can wholly lay the problems at the door of the London Bridge improvements.”
The MP raised the issue of poor communication with passengers, saying: “When it is clear that the companies could deliver a better service, people’s anger about what happens repeatedly is exacerbated by the absence of proper information about what is going on.”
“It may have been taking steps, but Southern must get better at providing information, particularly when there is major disruption, so that people are able to get home.”
Mr Herbert said that better compensation arrangements would help to improve Southern's accountability: “In July 2013, Transport Focus found that 88 per cent of those eligible for compensation did not claim. One of the most effective ways in which we could sharpen the accountability of rail operating companies is by having more effective and automatic compensation arrangements, so that the companies feel pain when they fail to deliver an adequate service for passengers. Compensation arrangements must be improved.”
The MP praised the work that the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, "for her work to address the poor historical performance of Southern and Network Rail on the routes we are discussing. Along with other Members, I met her before the election, and she was already in the process of taking action. She chaired a meeting in the House between the Office of the Rail Regulator, Network Rail and Southern, and an improvement plan was put in place. Not content with that, she took further action, convening another meeting immediately after the general election to demand further improvements.”
The Minister responded that “It is obvious to everyone that the system is creating millions of hours of misery for millions of people in one of the fastest-growing areas of the country. That is simply unacceptable, and it is not good enough to have one-off interventions, despite the fact that we have unprecedented levels of work going on. The industry has to learn how to do things differently. The challenge, in thinking about Euston, High Speed 2 and connectivity into London, is to learn the lessons now to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.”
Mrs Perry concluded by saying that she wanted better services to be delivered and “the best way to do that is through transparency, a continued focus on quality in the franchising process and all of us being involved in holding the companies to account.”
1. Photograph attached – Nick Herbert speaking in the Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 8 July.
2. For a link to the Hansard of the Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 8 July see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm150708/halltext/150708h0001.htm#15070835000593.
3. To read the Transport Focus report, published June 25 2015, see http://tinyurl.com/p9n3mkr.
4. To read the Office of Rail and Road report see http://tinyurl.com/p5qvd2r.
5. To read the Passenger Focus report see http://tinyurl.com/q79twec.
6. To read Nick’s news of the Sussex and Surrey MPs meeting with Rail Minister Claire Perry in May see http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/631/rail-minister-slams-quotinexcusablequot-southern-delays-and-disruption.