The ‘appalling’ level of train services recently provided by Southern have been criticised by West Sussex MPs as they met with rail bosses in Westminster on Monday.
Politicians from Worthing, Shoreham and Arundel attended a ‘woeful’ meeting with Network Rail, rail minister Claire Perry, and Govia Thameslink Railway -which runs both Thameslink and Southern - to discuss repeated delays to services since the start of December.
Sir Peter Bottomley, Worthing West MP, said: “Everyone agrees it’s not good enough. Too often the passenger experience has been appalling.
“In the circumstances the train and station staff are being let down by the system.”
He called on better communication between management at Network Rail and the train operators and their staff, and an end to trains cutting out intermediate stops to save time, as this was ‘not fair and not safe’ as school children and college students could be forced to get off at other stations, and if it did continue, especially late at night, he suggested that operators should pay for taxis to get people home safely.
MPs had been told some of the track had not been replaced for 80 years, the driver shortage was being tackled, Sir Peter said.
He recognised the efforts made by staff, including the work on the tracks at night, but added: “I’m determined to fight for a service that’s reliable and safe.”
Tim Loughton, East Worthing and Shoreham MP who was caught up in severe rail delays on Monday himself, added: “It was a pretty woeful meeting and we heard a lot of excuses, many of which we heard six months ago.
“Frankly it is just not good enough and it was very clear that there just was not enough planning to cope for increasing demand.
“Southern said there were six months into a four-year improvement plan and there was still a long way to go. I do not want to pull the wool over constituents’ eyes; it is not going to get appreciatively better any time soon.
“We made it very clear to the minister that she needs to apply pressure on the train operators so that when problems do happen they are handled much better with a better passenger focus. If they do not get it right, we should look at finding someone to replace them.”
Nick Gibb, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP, was unable to attend the meeting, but said afterwards: “The disruption and poor service faced daily by many of my constituents is unacceptable.
“The meeting today was essential in order to uncover the reasons behind the recent service performance and to review the plan for delivering a better service going forward.”
Meanwhile Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, added: “It was a tough meeting which must have been extremely uncomfortable for the rail industry, but rightly so. Our constituents are fed up with the constant disruption in the service on which they rely. We all understand about the pressures on these lines and the investment which is being made at London Bridge, but there can be no more excuses.”
Rail minister Claire Perry felt it was ‘inexcusable’ that passengers across Sussex were not receiving the service they deserved.
In a joint statement from GTR and Network Rail, they said they were working together to improve punctuality by making track, signalling and other systems more dependable as well as bringing in new and more reliable trains and extra drivers.
However they explained that the increasing number of passengers and improvement works at London Bridge made any problems on the Brighton Mainline up to four times more difficult to recover from.
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