‘Abysmal’ train services have been criticised by Horsham district’s two MPs following a meeting with rail bosses.
Both Horsham MP Jeremy Quin and Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, attended a meeting with Network Rail, rail minister Claire Perry, and Govia Thameslink Railway - which runs both Thameslink and Southern - on Monday to discuss the constant disruption and delays to services since the end of last year.
Just before Christmas Mr Herbert called for GTR to be stripped of its franchise unless it showed’ immediate improvement’. This was after an improvement plan was put in place after a similar rail summit in May last year.
Mr Quin said: “The operators and Network Rail are going to have to work very hard to regain to confidence of local MPs and passengers.
“We need to see them delivering against a clear action plan for improvements.
“Above all we need to know that they have sufficient staff to honour the timetables they issue to their customers.
“I have no doubt they are creating a much better railway for the future but they have customers right now who are paying a large amount of money and are receiving an abysmal service. If real improvements are not seen by the summer questions will raised as to whether this franchise is simply too large for the operator to handle.”
He expressed ‘frustration and disappointment’ that the positive picture MPs were painted last year had not been delivered.
Cancellations due to a lack of staff were ‘particluarly frustrating’ for Mr Quin given that they were assured in the summer that more drivers were being trained than ever.
But he acknowledged that the region’s rail infrastructure had suffered from a generation of under-investment, meaning little resilience to cope with problems.
He hoped current investment in newer trains and a more efficient London Bridge railway station would lead to a better service in the future.
Mr Quin added: “I am pleased that at the meeting the rail minister committed to bring forward plans to ensure passengers can be compensated for any delays in excess of 15 minutes rather than 30 minutes as at present. Any such scheme must be easily accessible by all passengers.
“The operator and network rail have been asked to produce definitive plans and timetables for improvement on which they can be held accountable and above all they must stick to their commitment to increase still further driver training and recruitment.”
Mr Herbert said: “We gave GTR/Southern and Network Rail a very hard time indeed about underperformance on this railway. A number of us said that we had simply lost faith in the assurances that things would improve, and we now wanted to see results, not words.
“I repeated, along with a number of MPs, that if there was not immediate improvement then GTR/Southern should forfeit its franchise and Network Rail should be held accountable.
“It was a tough meeting which must have been extremely uncomfortable for the rail industry, but rightly so.
“Our constituents are fed up of the constant disruption in the service on which they rely. We all understand about the pressures on these lines and the investment which is being made at London Bridge, but there can be no more excuses.”
Meanwhile rail minister Claire Perry felt it was ‘inexcusable’ that passengers across Sussex were not receiving the service they deserved.
In a joint statement from GTR and Network Rail they said they were working together to improve punctuality by making track, signalling and other systems more dependable as well as bringing in new and more reliable trains and extra drivers.
The statement added: “Increased passenger demand and essential improvement work at London Bridge has made any problems that do occur on the Brighton Main Line up to four times more difficult to recover from, as there is simply less room for the huge number of trains we run every day.
“However, when this work is finished, our services will be transformed for passengers with greater connectivity and more capacity to, from and through the heart of London.”
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make our website your homepage at www.wscountytimes.co.uk
2 Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wscountytimes
3 Follow us on Twitter @wscountytimes
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!
The County Times – always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.