I post a lot about rail but that’s because I’m always at it! Recently I attended a ‘summit’ of all MP’s in the area covered by Southern Rail. It had directors of Southern Rail, Network Rail, the department of Transport, and was chaired by the rail minister Clare Perry.
I was called to speak first and over the weekend before the summit had paid quite a bit of thought to what I would say. I was going to calmly talk about the issues I had uncovered through investigation combined with the experiences you have told me about. But during the presentations by rail bosses my blood began to rise to the extent that when I was called to speak I simply couldn’t contain my anger.
Instead of telling us how they were going to solve problems, most of the time was spent telling us how difficult it was. But they then told us not to blame the engineers (“who have cold hands in the winter”) or the train drivers. I’m afraid I was red in the face as I bellowed that I, nor any passengers, blame those people for the chaos…we blame YOU!!!
They asked for 18 months to two years before transformational improvements are achieved on the London to Brighton line. I said that this will be acceptable if they tell us the intermediate timescales when punctuality, reliability, and quality of service will improve so we can judge their progress. But they couldn’t. This provoked outrage in the room with MPs of all parties, including an impassioned speech by Caroline Lucas, with a unanimous view that should this continue we will collectively call for their franchise to be withdrawn.
I can assure you that your anger and frustration was well represented in the room that day.
I said in the meeting, and to the minister since, that we must see a published forward-programme of improvements so passengers can see what will improve and by when. Only then will trust start to be earned – providing it is actually delivered.
Then on Friday I literally went blue in the face as I left my flat in a rush without a jacket to do a BBC TV interview about my support for the Which! campaign to make it much easier for passengers to claim refunds for delayed services. I stood outside a station in the cold waiting for the camera to be set up and if you see the interview you’ll notice me shaking all the way through it! Please join me in signing the petition here:
Finally, I’m also on the Sunday Politics Show today at 11.30am on BBC1 where I once again talk about our rail services and threaten to call for Southern to loose its franchise if we don’t see improvements. I also talk about the migrant crisis and Calais. As ever, please let me know what you think. I hope you’re having a lovely weekend…stay warm!! All the best, Peter