Rail passengers "justifiably angry" over Arun Valley service

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has taken up the concerns of rail passengers using stations along the Arun Valley who complain that the service has deteriorated.

Mr Herbert has written to Southern's Managing Director Chris Burchell, drawing his attention to complaints from a number of passengers about the timetable change last year which resulted in the division of trains at Horsham, saying: "there is continuing concern that the service for the public using Arundel, Amberley and Pulborough stations is now significantly slower.

"There is also concern that when there are delays to the service from London in the evenings the stopping service to these villages is suspended.  I understand that this occurred twice in the run up to Christmas."

In his letter, Mr Herbert also highlights complaints about the latest timetable change which has resulted in the removal of trains from Arun Valley stations to London Bridge, saying: "This change has significantly affected the experience of a number of my constituents who commute to and from London each day.  They point out that these trains were already packed because of demand and that if anything there needed to be more trains, not fewer.  They also point out that they had already suffered the delays in services because of the division of trains at Horsham."

Mr Herbert continues: "I understand that regulated fares on the Arun Valley line have just increased by an average of 6 per cent and unregulated fares by 8 - 11 per cent.  At a time when fares are rising by well above the rate of inflation, you might appreciate that my constituents are justifiably angry about what they see as a diminution of a service for which they are being charged significantly more money. 

"I appreciate the timetabling challenges, which we have discussed, but I do not believe that it is acceptable to discriminate against people who live in the rural villages which I represent and pare back on their service simply because they are in the minority. 

"My constituents are now paying well over £3,000 a year for their season tickets and I am sure that you will agree that they are entitled to a decent service in return.  Yet as one constituent points out, the scheduled average time from Pulborough to London Bridge is now 80 minutes, which represents an average speed of 37.5 mph.  I suspect that this may be slower than in the age of steam.

"I appreciate that some of these issues relate to track and signalling, which are the responsibility of Network Rail, and that others are affected by Government policy.  Nevertheless, I would appreciate a response which I can forward to my constituents."

Mr Herbert met with Southern last year to discuss a number of concerns about services on the Arun Valley line.   The MP has requested another meeting with Mr Burchell and has indicated that he may call for a debate in the House of Commons.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For the website of Southern, visit http://www.southernrailway.com/.

2. For the website of the West Sussex Rail Users Association, visit http://www.wsrua.org.uk/.

3. A copy of the letter to southern is given below:

 

Letter to Chris Burchell, 7 January 2010

Dear Mr Burchell

I enclose copies of a number of e-mails which I have received from my constituents complaining about aspects of Southern's service on the Arun Valley Line.  These fall into two groups:

1. Complaints about the timetable change earlier last year resulting in the division of trains at Horsham

I wrote to you about this issue and we subsequently met to discuss it a year ago.  However, there is continuing concern that the service for the public using Arundel, Amberley and Pulborough stations is now significantly slower.  There is also concern that when there are delays to the service from London in the evenings the stopping service to these villages is suspended.  I understand that this occurred twice in the run up to Christmas.

2. Complaints about the latest timetable change resulting in the removal of trains from Arun Valley stations to London Bridge

This change has significantly affected the experience of a number of my constituents who commute to and from London each day.  They point out that these trains were already packed because of demand and that if anything there needed to be more trains, not fewer.  They also point out that they had already suffered the delays in services because of the division of trains at Horsham.

I understand that regulated fares on the Arun Valley line have just increased by an average of 6 per cent and unregulated fares by 8 - 11 per cent.  At a time when fares are rising by well above the rate of inflation, you might appreciate that my constituents are justifiably angry about what they see as a diminution of a service for which they are being charged significantly more money.  I appreciate the timetabling challenges, which we have discussed, but I do not believe that it is acceptable to discriminate against people who live in the rural villages which I represent and pare back on their service simply because they are in the minority. 

My constituents are now paying well over £3,000 a year for their season tickets and I am sure that you will agree that they are entitled to a decent service in return.  Yet as one constituent points out, the scheduled average time from Pulborough to London Bridge is now 80 minutes, which represents an average speed of 37.5 mph.  I suspect that this may be slower than in the age of steam.

I appreciate that some of these issues relate to track and signalling, which are the responsibility of Network Rail, and that others are affected by Government policy.  Nevertheless, I would appreciate a response which I can forward to my constituents.  I would also be grateful if we could meet again to discuss these concerns, not least because I am minded to raise them in the House of Commons.  I would also very much appreciate an update on the franchise process.

With kind regards.

Yours sincerely

Nick Herbert

Ed Barker