Minister pledges to hold rail companies to account for poor service
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has welcomed a commitment from the Rail Minister to hold rail companies to account following another week of service disruption to local trains.
The Minister, Claire Perry MP, wrote to Mr Herbert in response to his call for clarity on the sanctions available when train companies fail to deliver accepable standards of performance. The MP raised his concerns about Govia Thameslink and Network Rail’s recent performance following a Commons debate which 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 £2 million penalty on Network Rail 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.
Govia Thameslink (GTR) have also been fined for failing to meet their benchmarks on cancellations. GTR are held to account through their Franchise Agreement with the Department of Transport, and have 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 this week 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 focus of ensuring passengers will see the benefits of improvements.
However she said that the plan would take some time to complete: “We are 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.”
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."
Mr Herbert has been at the forefront of demands for Southern and Network Rail to improve their performance, initiating two Commons debates and several meetings with the Rail Minister.
1. To read Claire Perry’s letter to Nick Herbert in full see http://www.nickherbert.com/data/files/160506_Claire_Perry_Letter.pdf.
2. To read Nick’s news ‘MP demands accountability for rail failures’ see http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/709/mp-demands-accountability-for-rail-failures.
3. To read the Westminster Hall debate of 16 March in full see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160316/halltext/160316h0002.htm#16031635000262