Rail Minister slams "inexcusable" Southern delays and disruption
The Rail Minister has pledged action to improve Southern train services, saying that at times delays and disruption were “simply inexcusable”.
The Minister, Claire Perry MP, wrote to Sussex and Surrey Conservative MPs after a delegation including Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs), Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) and Jeremy Quin (Horsham) met her at the Commons on Tuesday (26 May) to raise concerns about the service.
MPs said that their constituents were facing unreliable services with frequently late or cancelled trains, overcrowding and unpopular timetable changes.
Nick Herbert said: “The fact that West Sussex MPs asked for this meeting with the Rail Minister so soon after the election demonstrates our concern about the local rail service and our determination to see improvements.
"The service remains unacceptably poor with late or cancelled trains, overcrowding and unpopular timetable changes.
"Southern now has the unenviable reputation as the worst rail company in the country, but the problems are also down to failures of Network Rail.
"I emphasised to the Minister that my constituents are fed up with excuses - they want action and tangible improvements to the service."
In her response to the MPs Mrs Perry said that she was “really proud’ of the Government’s investment in the multi-billion pound Thameslink project, but was also “extremely concerned” about the direct and indirect impact works were having on passengers.
The Minister said that her “priority” in the new Parliament was to tackle the issue, and that following a review by the Chief Executive of Network Rail she had asked for an action plan to improve services.
Mrs Perry also said that from next week she would chair a regular weekly meeting at which all the relevant Department for Transport officials, National Rail lead managers and the operating company heads would focus on improvements.
The Minister said: “I expect, based on the previous experience of turning around performance on the West Coast main line that this will take time to have an impact, however I am confident it will and that things will improve.”
Mrs Perry added that she would ask Transport Focus, the Passenger’s watchdog, to prioritise these lines in their assessment of passenger experiences so that the Government could monitor the improvements we want the industry to deliver.
The Minister also said that she was looking at how to fulfill the Conservative Party’s manifesto promise to require train companies to improve compensation for passengers.
Also present at the meeting were Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Worthing West), Maria Caulfield MP (Lewes), Crispin Blunt MP (Reigate), Nus Ghani MP (Wealden), Tom Tugendhat MP (Tonbridge & Malling) and Huw Merriman MP (Bexhill & Battle).
At a meeting with MPs and the Minister earlier this year the rail companies committed to a performance improvement plan.
However, MPs said that problems had continued and the targets in the improvement plan were insufficient.
1. Photograph 1 attached – Claire Perry (centre) meeting MPs including Nick Herbert (second from left).
2. Claire Perry’s letter can be found here.
3. Nick Herbert’s article in the West Sussex County Times last week: http://www.nickherbert.com/media_centre.php/754/Transport.
4. Nick Herbert’s news release “Rail companies pledge action after MPs demand improvements” (2 February): http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/592/rail-companies-pledge-action-after-mps-demand-improvements.
5. Nick Herbert’s news release “MP takes rail concern to Minister” (6 January): http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/584/mp-takes-rail-concerns-to-minister.