Since my last update on 28 April, I have continued to press Southeastern, Network Rail and the Department for Transport on a number of points, also seeking answers on the concerns and complaints local residents have brought to my attention.
While it has not been so much of a problem of late, many of us experienced incredibly uncomfortable on-board temperatures while travelling by rail earlier this summer. Shortly after returning to the Commons following the General Election, I raised this matter with David Statham, the Managing Director of Southeastern, and have attached copies of my correspondence below. I also highlighted this problem in May in my response to the consultation on the future of the South Eastern franchise (https://www.bobneill.org.uk/news/bob-neill-responds-consultation-future-local-rail-services). Please be assured that I will continue to push for improvements on this issue.
Also in June, along with eleven other Conservative MPs whose constituencies are served by Southeastern, I co-signed a letter to the Rail Minister, Paul Maynard, setting out my requests for the next franchise, which is planned to start in December 2018. This effectively amalgamated the key priorities I had put forward in my response to the franchise consultation – which I hope summed up the wishes of many of us travelling to and from the London suburbs – with those of Members of Parliament representing seats elsewhere in Kent. Again, I have attached a copy at the bottom of this page.
With the franchise renewal coming up soon, and a number of competitors currently bidding for the contract, I feel we have a good opportunity to ensure that whoever takes over the running of the service in our area listens to passengers’ concerns and oversees genuine improvements in the day-to-day running of the network. The bidders for the franchise have now been whittled down to a shortlist of four:
- South Eastern Railways Ltd, a joint venture between Abellio and the consortium of East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co.;
- London and South East Passenger Rail Services Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Govia Limited;
- Stagecoach South Eastern Trains Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Stagecoach Group plc;
- and Trenitalia UK Limited.
I will be monitoring this process very closely over the coming months to see that the best candidate capable of providing the improvements we need in Bromley and Chislehurst is awarded the tender.
More recently, I wrote again to the Rail Minister last week to maintain pressure on the Department for Transport to ensure additional rolling stock is secured on Southeastern lines as soon as possible. I also wanted to stress the importance of providing a fair level of investment in the network during the next funding period, push for the introduction of a passenger ombudsman to stand up for customer grievances, and urge the Minister to ensure adequate steps have been taken to mitigate any repeat disruption following the changes to services at Charing Cross, London Bridge and Waterloo East later this month. A copy of the letter is attached below, which sets out my thoughts in further detail.
Performance has noticeably improved over the last couple of months, something that has been recognised in recent customer satisfaction surveys, which have also shown improvements. While this is to be welcomed, progress needs to be sustained in the long-term and backed-up by tangible improvements on the sort of issues many of us continue to have problems with travelling around the network. I will do everything I can over the coming months to make that happen.