Our Rail Nightmare

Every day I am contacted by people struggling to get to work and struggling to get home again afterwards. 34,000 people leave our city by train to work every day and the service let's so many of them down day after day after day.

Even today I've been told by someone who's self employed how she may have to give up living here because she looses so much business due to late or cancelled trains. Every day at the moment I hear horror stories of cancellations, overcrowding, chronic delays, and trains terminating before reaching the destination.

I don't have to commute every day, I'm lucky. But I travel often enough to know how bad it can be. I know I can no longer rely on the commuter service so if I have to be at parliament early or for a meeting or debate where I want your voice heard loud and clear, well I always go up the night before and stay over with a friend because I can't trust the train service to get me there on time.

I have met, emailed, written to, and challenged ministers on the floor of the Commons many dozens of times. Not a week goes by when I don't make your voice heard to the rail companies and to government. I've spoken to the media more on rail than any other issue.

Yet at times I feel as helpless - which I hate. I know that you elected me to sort these problems out and it is soul destroying that so many promises to me have been broken. It's like our city has collective toothache because the pain caused by our rail service is constant, miserable, and un-ignorable.

Last week I wrote again to the minister demanding action. The very first meeting I had as your MP was with the rail minister and the promises she made about improvements in a six month period have not come to pass. Similarly the promises made by rail
Companies have been broken.

I am happy to call for the franchise to be stripped or for government to step in - but all I care about is what will make your journey home tonight better than the one you took in the morning. And the journeys you make next week better than those of this week.

There are big, big challenges in improving our rails service. We're talking about massive infrastructure and historic underinvestment. We have only one line which makes upgrading difficult. We have 5% increases in passenger numbers each year. Plus we have a huge two year London Bridge upgrade going on and new rolling stock being tested.

We also have a dysfunctional set of relationships at the heart of all this. Government and the franchises, Network Rail and the franchises, and worst of all at the moment is the deplorable relationship between staff and employers.

What I want is simple and twofold. I want every single organisation and body responsible for our rail service to start putting passengers first - they are not at the moment. And secondly I want government and rail companies to tell us what will improve and when it will improve by so we know what to expect and when to expect it and hold them to account. I have asked for his simple information since that very first meeting a year ago and even in the Commons chamber - each time they have refused to give it but the time for hedging has passed.

So many people being late to work is damaging our economy and livelihoods. People getting home late in the evening is damaging the family life of people who live in our city. Things have got to change and they have got to change now.

Next week I meet with the rail companies again. Within a fortnight I will meet with the rail minister. Within that time there is also another summit meeting where I will join together with other MPs in the area so we can continue to work together. I will work with anyone and do whatever it takes to sort this shambles out because I know just how important it is to you and how much pain it causes to people, families, our city and our economy. Yours, Peter.

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commented 2016-06-16 13:18:16 +0100
Watching Claire Perry on BBC South yesterday, it is now depressingly clear that the Department for Transport is responsible for and indeed encouraging this shambles. Its agenda is to reduce staffing on the railways – the ticket office closure programme has been a recent example and now getting GTR to pave the way to make Driver Only Operated trains the default, regardless of the safety implications. Drivers should be allowed to concentrate on driving the trains – they shouldn’t have to make announcements (or even operate automated recorded announcements). Trains without guards means that any incidents on board (malfunctioning toilets/heating/cooling and anti-social/potentially dangerous behaviour) cannot be reported. It is all very well to trumpet the arrival of new 12 carriage trains, but if 4 of them are stifling and therefore empty, what’s the point? GTR and Claire Perry talk of changing the role of Conductor to On Board Supervisors: Gatwick Express and Thameslink trains are Driver Only Operated but I have never seen an On Board Supervisor on these trains since the conductors were removed.
The problem is the current DfT policy – we can object to it but can we change it? The government won’t take back the franchise and run it because they then would have to implement the changes themselves and they’d be found out: far better to prop up GTR and let them do their dirty work for them.
commented 2016-06-14 13:28:38 +0100
Peter, it is not about an imporvement plan. This franchise is being misrun and causing misery and huge damage. Southern staff are telling us on the platforms that the company are not allowing staff to make up time lost to strike action and that they are prventing the overtime on which the normal running timetable relies so as to save costs and make larger profits for the shareholders. The company have absolutely no regard for the rail users and you need to intervene on our behalf in at a far more meaningful way, otherwise lving in Hove and working anywhere north of Gatwick will become untennable. Urgent action is needed immediately, at the highest level. Will you be joining the protest at Brighton station this evening?
commented 2016-06-09 21:34:47 +0100
Here we are again, waiting for services from London Victoria to Hove that are never to come. The staff at Victoria tell us to write to the company. As if that will work. I am tired of arriving home an hour later than I promised. I’m tired of missing helping out with homework or getting kids to bed. I’m tired of paying thousands of pounds for a service that is less reliable than a wayward cat. If you tell me I need to show up on the Minister’s doorstep to effect this change, I will be there. If you tell me I need to get a petition signed by a thousand of my fellow sufferers at Hove station, I will do that. Just give me something I can do, as it is awful just being a victim of the Southern Rail failure.
commented 2016-06-09 12:28:08 +0100
Thanks for raising this issue, Peter, but you are focussing on the wrong target. These cancellations are caused by Southern’s conductors calling in sick and trains being cancelled because of a lack of staff. The cancellations are necessary because the conductors are needed to press a button that closes the doors. The spike in sickness has nothing to do with real illness and everything to do with wildcat strikes being incited by the hard left RMT. And, I think as a moderate, you know this to be the case.
commented 2016-06-06 23:17:55 +0100
I’m sorry Peter, why are we asking for a clear improvement plan? I’ve read the previous improvement plan and it’s a joke. No actions, no deliverable, few target dates and nothing of substance. Stand with Caroline Lucas and demand these crooks are stripped of their franchise

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