A huge amount of my energy ends up being devoted to trying to solve the endless fiasco that is the train service for Brighton and Hove. If you follow my Facebook you’ll know that I continually bang on about trains, and it very often feels as though I am banging my head against a brick wall.
However I am determined to make progress and I shall continue fighting! As your MP some of my first meetings were with Train Executives and other MP’s who are served by Southern Rail.
I set up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs whose local areas are affected by Southern Rail, with Sir Nicholas Soames MP. It’s designed to amplify the voice and concerns of our constituents to the people who run our network.
The group has regular meetings in Parliament to scrutinise the government’s work on improving our local rail network and service as well as to engage constructively with bosses from Southern Rail and from Network Rail.
As a group we continue to push for crucial investment in the South East route, and have helped unlock an additional £320 million to invest in critical infrastructure upgrades.
Before the timetable changes of May 2018, the APPG I set up with Sir Nicholas Soames in Parliament held a marathon two-hour session with directors of Govia and Network Rail where we went through the reforms in minute detail. I kept in close touch with the rail bosses and Network Rail throughout to check on progress, and I even travelled to the Network Rail signalling centre in Three Bridges and spent a whole morning with the men and women who control all of the signalling for our region.
Then as many of you sadly experienced, the first stage of the changes came in and the service almost collapsed. As a matter of urgency I spoke to the Rail Minister Jo Johnson, the head of rail company GTR, and the boss of Network Rail. I also tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions to the Transport Secretary to try and find out what went wrong, which you can read here:
The Labour Party also called a debate in Parliament on a motion of no confidence in Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. During the debate, I challenged Chris Grayling to accept some responsibility for what passengers have suffered: “The network is incredibly complicated, with a whole range of different providers, both publicly and privately owned. Does he understand that passengers look to the Government in their role of overseeing all the different providers? We do not have an independent board, with a chair and non-executives who scrutinise, challenge and support the network; we look to him as Secretary of State and to the Department. He is entirely reactive and not entirely proactive, which is what passengers need. Does he not accept some responsibility for what has happened—for the lack of oversight, the lack of scrutiny and the lack of challenge while this was happening, rather than just reacting afterwards?”. You can read the full debate here
Very often with trains it very much feels like a case of two steps forwards and one step back, but I assure you that I will continue to press Ministers to accept responsibility, to force rail Executives to provide the service which you deserve, and to solve these problems once and for all.