Passengers fear return of ‘normal’ Southern service

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, speaking about Southern trains (photo from Parliament.tv).

Lewes MP Maria Caulfield, speaking about Southern trains (photo from Parliament.tv).

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The fear of a normal Southern experience ‘is filling some people with trepidation’, Lewes’ MP has suggested.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Maria Caulfield welcomed the news that train drivers’ union ASLEF had suspended its strike actions to allow talks to resume with rail operator Govia Thamslink Railway and the resumption of the normal timetable from tomorrow (Tuesday January 24).

But she explained that the normal service for the Southern region over the last two years ‘has been extremely poor’ and told fellow MPs the ‘fear of a “normal” Southern experience is filling some people with trepidation’.

She said: “The Secretary of State is on record as saying that once the dispute is resolved, the performance of Southern rail will have to be tackled. I can only speak for myself when I say that I would look at all the options.

“It is not acceptable to my constituents and others across the country that only 66 per cent of train services run on time.

“I know of people who are losing, or who have lost, their jobs and who are moving home because of that poor performance.”

She added: “I want the minister to outline the timescale within which we expect performance to improve. We cannot go on for months with poor performance.

“Before the dispute, Southern was fined £2 million for its poor performance, but given how much it earns from the contract, that is a drop in the ocean.

“It would be helpful if the minister could outline the timescale within which he will measure Southern rail’s performance and the sanctions that will be imposed on it if it does not improve the service.”

Transport minister Andrew Jones replied: “I expect Govia Thameslink Railway to be able to run a reliable and predictable service for passengers.

“That is an entirely reasonable expectation so I can only imagine what it must be like to be dependent on such an unpredictable service not just as a commuter, but as someone who needs to travel regularly.”

He added:” It is appropriate that GTR is held to account for the quality of its product, and the Government continue to do that. GTR must work with Network Rail to deliver better passenger services as soon as possible.

“We monitor closely the performance of all rail franchises, and the franchise agreement contains clear penalties and incentives so that operators are penalised for repeated poor performance in the areas for which they take direct responsibility.”

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