MP takes rail concerns to Minister
The Government has demanded that rail services in Sussex must improve after an MP raised his concerns last week.
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert met the Rail Minister on Tuesday (6 January) to discuss services in West Sussex.
Mr Herbert asked to see Claire Perry MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Transport, to raise his constituents' concerns about the standard of services on the Arun Valley and Brighton lines.
The MP, who was recently appointed President of the West Sussex Rail Users Association, said that he had received complaints about the punctuality of trains and that services needed to improve, especially on the Brighton mainline.
Mr Herbert said that local people were also concerned about the cleanliness of trains and the availability of parking at stations including Barnham and Pulborough.
This week (Tuesday 13 January) the Prime Minister said that the performance of a local rail service which was late every day for a year was "not good enough".
The 07.29 Brighton to London Victoria train service, which stops at Hassocks in Nick Herbert's constituency, failed to arrive on time on any of its 240 attempts last year.
Speaking to BBC Sussex and BBC Surrey, David Cameron said that delayed services were "extremely frustrating" and warned: "Frankly if the operators continue to fail then they should be at risk of losing their franchise ... because it's not good enough to have services like this."
Nick Herbert's meeting with the Minister took place at the Department of Transport in Whitehall and was attended by senior officials.
The Minister said that she was concerned about the quality of the service, especially on the Brighton line, and had asked to meet the rail operating companies and Network Rail to discuss necessary improvements.
Mrs Perry said that while a certain amount of disruption was caused by the £6 billion London Bridge improvements, which would improve services in future, this did not excuse poor reliability generally, especially on the Brighton line where performance was declining.
She said that she would invite local MPs to the meeting with the train companies, Network Rail and the regulator to hear what action would be taken.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Herbert said: "I was grateful for the opportunity to relay my constituents' concerns about local rail services, and was pleased that the Minister has identified that improvements are necessary.
"People pay a great deal, through their taxes and fares, for rail services, especially commuters, and they are entitled to a reliable service. I look forward to meeting with the rail operators and Network Rail with the Minister to hear how they intend to improve their performance."
The MP added: "I will continue to ensure that my constituents' concerns are heard and press for better local rail services."
The Minister said: "Nick Herbert has been assiduous in raising issues about his local rail service and I believe he has valid concerns. I have told Network Rail and the rail operating companies that they must improve reliability and will be convening a special meeting, which I have asked Nick to attend, so that they can explain what they propose to do."
Mr Herbert also raised the issue of the Arundel Chord, the proposal for a short piece of line to allow trains to turn east below Arundel. Following a request by the MP, Network Rail has considered the case for the Chord in providing a diversionary route for Brighton services.
However, in its Sussex Area Route Study Draft for Consultation, published in October last year, Network Rail found that there would be insufficient benefits to justify the cost of the Chord, which would be between £35 and £75 million.
Mr Herbert met Network Rail before Christmas to discuss the Chord and other local rail issues, and has also asked to meet Govia Thameslink Railway, the parent company running the Thameslink and, from July, the Southern and Gatwick Express Services.
He will also be meeting the Hassocks Amenity Association Rail Group to discuss local services. The group met Phil Hutchinson, Head of Timetable Planning at Govia Thameslink Railway, last Fridayand raised the downgrading of the evening service from Brighton to Hassocks.
1. To listen to the audio of David Cameron talking to BBC Sussex and Surrey https://audioboom.com/boos/2795341-david-cameron-on-bbc-sussex#t=4m47s.
2. Network Rail’s Sussex Area Route Study draft for consultation can be read here: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/long-term-planning-process/south-east-route-sussex-area-route-study/.
3. To read Nick’s news ‘MP appointed President of rail users group’see http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/565/mp-appointed-president-of-rail-users-group.