Local MP Jeremy Quin secured a “Westminster Hall” debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday (16th March) on the performance of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail.
Mr Quin led the 90 minute debate which was well attended by local MPs including Henry Smith, Sir Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert. They joined in setting out the massive and ongoing issues faced by local rail passengers. Rail Minister Claire Perry attended the entirety of the debate and spoke at its conclusion.
Jeremy Quin was able to use personal experience and scores of messages emailed to him by of constituents in laying out the widespread frustration. These included constituents left stranded late at night by cancelled trains.
Mr Quin acknowledged that a huge amount of investment (£6bn) was being put in to the line and London Bridge Station in particular, that the new Class 700 trains were coming in to service and over 250 new drivers are in training.
However he wanted to hear “less about inputs and more about output – when will passengers get the service they have every right to expect and certainly pay for.”
He described the current proposal to reduce ticket office hours as “pouring salt in the wound”. Concerns were raised about the number of ticket machines, the range of tickets they sold and the difficulty of using them. He asked the Minister what progress was being made on extending electronic ticketing and improving the extent, generosity and ease of access to “Delay Repay” to get refunds that were due.
He asked the Minister to ensure that Network Rail – which accounts for over half the problems but seemed in his view to be “totally distant from the passengers they ultimately serve” to be held accountable. He also pointed out that the franchise held by “Govia Thameslink” is the largest in the network and that “if the Minister believes it is simply too large to be efficiency managed she should not be afraid to take action”.
In replying to the debate the Rail Minister who meets GTR and Network Rail every week for progress updates on the lines pledged to continue to bring pressure to bear. She would be looking again urgently at “delay repay” and electronic ticketing and has introduced metrics to ensure Network Rail are focused on the travelling public.
Mr Quin commented:
‘I would like to thank all the constituents who took the time to email me. We made clear to the Minister that all we want to see is a rail service on which passengers can get a seat and can travel reliably. It is what they pay for and should not be too much to ask. I will continue to keep up the pressure until the hard work and hard cash which is undoubtedly being put in to our local services produces an improved service.”