Nick Herbert: ‘Trains affected too, even on Monday morning’

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The sudden fall of heavy snow in West Sussex on Monday caused serious problems for drivers. One constituent told me that she was stuck for eight-and-three-quarter hours on the A23, and I know many others were in the same position.

The lack of information while they were waiting was an additional concern.Constituents have questioned whether enough was done to grit the roads, and I have taken up these concerns, although both the Highways Agency and the County Council assure us that they did.

Thank you to all those who made strenuous efforts to rescue people.

The trains were affected, too, even on the Monday morning when the snow wasn’t heavy. I think people understand that heavy snowfall will affect services, but too often there is disruption at the slightest pretext. I have been receiving a number of complaints about the Southern and First Capital Connect Services generally. On the Arun Valley line, trains are too often late and dirty – as I see for myself.

One constituent tells me that on trains from Hassocks there is often standing room only, and that some commuters have even taken to using shooting sticks to ease the strain of standing for an hour or more.

The Government recently tried to moderate fare rises – the average increase in regulated rail fares has been limited to one per cent above inflation for this and next year. But when a season ticket from Hassocks to London Bridge costs a hefty £3,400 a year nevertheless, people rightly expect a good service.

I am meeting the Operations Director of First Capital Connect this week to discuss these issues, and the Chief Executive of Southern next month.

I am also raising these issues with Network Rail, and will ask about plans to upgrade the signalling on the Arun Valley line – a reason why trains run so slowly and a cause of delays. It is due to be replaced by November.

I will press the issue of inadequate parking at Pulborough, and again make the case for a new Arundel “chord” so that trains running south on the line can turn East towards Worthing.

South Downs commuters who get up very early, travel long distances and work very hard are paying a lot for their rail journey.

They are entitled to a decent service in return.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com