Lewes MP requests urgent meeting with rail minister

Rail minister Claire Perry last year with Lewes MP Maria Caulfield
Rail minister Claire Perry last year with Lewes MP Maria Caulfield

Lewes’ MP has requested an urgent meeting with the rail minister to discuss Southern’s ‘worst performance to date’.

Services have been affected by conductor strikes and high levels of staff sickness in the last few weeks with a number of trains across all routes cancelled.

For example on Monday (May 23) only 40 per cent of all services run by Govia Thamslink Railway arrived at their destination at the scheduled time, while 68.6 per cent of trains arrived either on time or less than five minutes late.

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield said: “Despite repeated attempts by MPs across Sussex to ask Southern Rail to improve their services, this month sees the worst performance to date with figures showing Southern and Thameslink being the worst performing operators.

“My constituents can take no more and are fed up with cancellations, late running trains, strikes and early terminations. I have asked to meet with the rail minister as a matter of urgency.”

According to GTR’s monthly progress report published last week a long term restriction of 30mph near Polegate is now due for removal in June, as is a 50mph speed restriction near Glynde once embankment strengthening works are completed.

The operator’s driver recruitment programme is continuing but it is still relying ‘to a degree on drivers working on their rest days, a long established and common practice in the industry, but increasingly this can’t cover all the shifts required’, with the number of drivers required due to be reached by the end of the summer.

It is also working on improving response times in the case of signalling or train failures, and has also reviewed how it deploys train crew, the design of rosters, and how crew are organised on its day-to-day services.

GTR is currently embroiled in a dispute with union RMT over the future role of conductors on services, resulting in several strikes already this year, on top of high levels of staff sickness.

Last week GTR’s chief executive officer Charles Horton told the union to ‘get on board with these changes which will improve the railway for passengers, as well as securing the jobs of their members’.

He added: “This pointless and unnecessary action by the RMT causes enormous disruption for the 300,000 people we carry on their commute every day.”

The operator said it was ‘untrue’ that they were removing guards from trains as the same amount of staff would be on trains in the future as there are today, and it was not putting profits before safety.

The spokesman added: “It’s now time for the RMT to drop this stance; to realise that modern trains do not need conductors to close doors and to recognise that our proposals are in the best interests of our passengers and staff.

“If the union really wants what’s best for its members and our passengers, it needs to come to the table and talk to us about our proposals.”

This was after RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash described Southern and GTR’s attempt to blame the union for a ‘staffing crisis’ as ‘ludicrous’.

Mr Cash added: “The hard fact is that this company does not employ enough staff to fill the rosters and is carrying significant levels of vacancies.”

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage at www.sussexexpress.co.uk/

2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Sussex-Express/

3) Follow us on Twitter @sussex_express

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Sussex Express - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.