As someone who travels from Chislehurst to Westminster every day using our local rail services, I am only too aware how busy and unpleasant the commute can already be, and understand the sort of problems many of us regularly face simply trying to get from A to B.
The marked deterioration in service we have all experienced since the new timetable changes came into effect on 20 May is completely unacceptable. It is something I have raised with ministers on a number of occasions, both prior to the revision being implemented and since, including with the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, in April, as well as directly with the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, last month, and again earlier this week. I have copied the links to all of these exchanges below:
I also wrote to the Rail Minister last month reiterating the anxiety that exists locally and emphasising the impact these changes will have on a large number of passengers. I have attached a copy of this letter at the bottom of the page. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, the predictions many of us made in the run-up to these changes have rung true.
On Monday, the Government announced that it has launched an urgent inquiry into why the various organisations involved have failed to deliver what was promised. This will be overseen by the independent Office of Rail and Road and chaired by Professor Stephen Glaister. Entitlements for customers, similar to those conferred by last year’s Southern passenger compensation scheme, are also being worked through, and the Department for Transport has been very clear that it will not hesitate to take enforcement action if the operators are found to have breached their contractual obligations.
Although this is welcome news, I understand that it will provide little comfort to passengers in the immediate term, who just want to be able to get to work on time. Please be assured that I will do whatever I can to ensure services improve over the coming weeks, and will certainly continue to voice my concerns, and those of local passengers, publicly, both in the Commons and outside. Although that alone will not bring about the changes we want to see, I believe it is important that we keep this problem as high up the agenda as possible to maintain pressure on Thameslink, Southeastern and the Department for Transport. That is what I intend to do.
I should also be clear that I am under no illusions that the timetable, or indeed the service provided, was perfect before. Far from it, frequent disruption, poor reliability and overcrowding has blighted the network for some time, and these are all problems I continue to press the train operating companies on. I meet regularly with Network Rail and the franchise holders, as well as with ministers and officials at the Department for Transport, and will carry on pushing for tangible change.
Improving services in our area is a real priority for me, both as a local passenger myself, and, of course, as your MP. As always, I will endeavour to post any updates on social media, as well as on my website.