Mid Sussex MP Soames: Rail problems are '˜completely unacceptable'

Train delays and cancellations on the first Monday of 2016 were '˜completely unacceptable', according to Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames.

Nicholas Soames SUS-150104-144813001
Nicholas Soames SUS-150104-144813001

After major engineering work over Christmas and the New Year, services were supposed to return to normal on Monday.

However, signal failure at Purley left many trains delayed or cancelled.

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Sir Nicholas, who criticised rail operator Southern last week, said he held Network Rail responsible for yesterday’s problems.

“It’s completely unacceptable, and indeed pathetic, that after closing the entire railway down in our area, the first thing that happens when they release it to the services again is that it breaks,” he said.

“The railway summit is coming up very shortly, with [Rail Minister] Claire Perry, and I shall certainly be berating them.

“I think it’s unbelievable, quite frankly.

“I’ve had a lot of emails from constituents today, and I’m very disappointed on their behalf.

“It’s important to remember that Network Rail do the work, it’s Southern that are the user of it.”

Network Rail carried out the £4m junction renewal programme at Purley, where tracks from Caterham, Tattenham Corner, Redhill and Gatwick all merge.

A statement from Network Rail yesterday said that trains will have to run at a temporary maximum speed of 60mph, rather than the usual 90mph.

“As with all major track renewals, a short period of bedding in will now take place, with trains running at reduced speeds. This is not expected to have a major impact on journeys,” it said.

Network Rail route managing director Alasdair Coates said: “I would like to thank passengers for their patience, and also our lineside neighbours, who will have seen and heard the huge project going on over Christmas.

“There is no good time to do this work, and I am especially conscious of the disruption we caused to passengers travelling to Gatwick and to work in London.

“However, we must continue to invest and rebuild the Brighton Main Line to keep trains running reliably for the thousands of people who rely on it every day.

“This was a massive project on one of the country’s busiest railways and the successful completion is a credit to our engineers and suppliers.”

Gatwick Express Passenger Services Director, Angie Doll said: “I would like to thank our passengers for their patience and understanding while the work took place. Our contingency plans worked extremely well and everyone was able to get to their destinations as planned. Now that this important junction has been renewed, we expect it to be more reliable, reducing the risk of disruption in the area.”

While Sir Nicholas stressed that Southern were not to blame for Monday’s problems, he still believes they should lose their franchise.

“Both Nick Herbert and I have already said that when we meet Claire Perry, we will be raising the fact that Southern are just not up to doing it,” he said.

“I’ve just seen that this endless shortage of drivers was down to the number of drivers taking holidays. What the hell are they playing at?

“What would you think if you turned up for a British Airways flight and they said: ‘Sorry, we haven’t got any pilots’?”

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