Lewes MP says complaints about Southern have hit a record high

Lewes Railway Station
Lewes Railway Station

“I have had more complaints in the last three months about Southern than at any time since they won the franchise at the start of the century,” said Lewes Lib Dem MP Norman Baker this week.

As a result the MP will meet Southern’s deputy managing director to go through the complaints he has received and suggestions for service improvements.

Amongst the criticisms levelled at the train operator by residents are poor punctuality, lack of information for passengers and poor co-ordination of trains and buses during engineering works.

A spokesperson for Southern said: “We welcome the opportunity to speak with Mr Baker this coming Friday.

“In the meantime, Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Southern are working together to improve performance on one of the most congested railways in the country.

“Our passengers have not been getting the service they expect from us and for this we apologise.”

Southern said more than 3,000 trains a day ran on the railway linking London and the Sussex Coast and in recent years, as demand had grown, performance had declined.

The rebuilding of London Bridge as part of the Thameslink Programme, which will bring extra capacity to the route, has added an additional strain with fewer routes into and out of the station.

Network Rail and Southern have been working to produce an improvement plan. Southern said it had started tackling key issues out on the network.

The improvement plan includes looking at infrastructure, trains, timetable, drivers, operations and customer experience. To read the plan visit www.southernrailway.com/improvementplan

The complaints received by Mr Baker include incorrect information given, poor co-ordination of trains and buses during engineering works, short notice cancellation of stops, especially at Cooksbridge, and cumbersome compensation arrangements.

Mr Baker said: “I appreciate the major works at London Bridge have made life difficult for Southern, but the fact is that the timetable changes flowing from this work were badly planned and people have not been kept informed.

“Moreover, punctuality generally on Southern appears to be falling through the floor, and customer service has sadly deteriorated as well.

“Southern need to do far better than they have of late.

“The steps they announced recently will help but they need to do much more to give passengers the service they deserve and for which they pay a considerable amount.”

Suggestions for improvements train users would like to see included: a later last train to Seaford, early introductions of part-time season tickets.

Mr Baker is calling for a new 23.17 train from London to Lewes and Polegate, an hourly stopping service at Cooksbridge and extra evening and weekend stopping services at Plumpton. The redevelopment at London Bridge Station, includes creating new platforms for more trains, building a new concourse, and creating a bigger and better station. Changes will enable more trains - up to 18 trains an hour - through London Bridge.