Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern, Thameslink, and Gatwick Express trains, has been locked in a bitter dispute with the RMT union over the future role of conductors, causing months of misery for commuters with both sides blaming each other for staff shortages.
The Government’s rail minister Claire Perry resigned on Thursday (July 14), a day after MPs labelled Southern services a ‘national disgrace’.
New Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, appointed by Prime Minister Theresa May, said improving Southern was his ‘top priority’.
Now Crawley borough councillors are set to add their voices to condemn the recent performance of Southern.
Councillor Tim Lunnon (Lab, Broadfield South) has tabled a motion for tonight’s Full Council meeting which calls on the Government to take whatever action it can to encourage the management at Southern to ‘put an end to the dreadful failure in service that Crawley residents and workers have suffered recently’.
The motion adds: “The disruption damages both the economy and the personal lives of all who rely on the rail network, who pay good money and expect an acceptable quality of service for the price they pay.”
Cllr Lunnon explained that he had personally experienced disruption travelling to London and has friends whose lives have been affected by the disruption, while colleagues commuting into Manor Royal are ‘really struggling’.
He said: “Speaking to residents and listening to media reports it’s become clear that most commuters now believe that whatever the initial causes of disruption, fixing it is now beyond the ability of Southern rail management.”
He added: “Whilst Crawley Borough Council cannot directly change what is happening, by applying more pressure to those who can, hopefully it’ll help residents feel that were not just listening to their concerns and also taking action to resolve them.”
Councillor Michael Jones (Lab, Bewbush), cabinet member for public protection and community engagement, second the motion. He said: “We submitted this motion because we have personally experienced the sheer extent of the failure of the train services provided by Southern in the past few months.
“When routine journeys become a consistent ordeal, when passengers can have absolutely no confidence that they’ll arrive on time for work, and that the scheduled services are subject to long delays or short notice cancellations as frequently as they have been, it simply isn’t good enough.”
He added: “We need to take a stand for our residents and those across the Southern region, and call on the Government to get its act together and sort Southern out, or if that isn’t possible take the franchise off them.”
Last week Crawley MP Henry Smith attended the inaugural meeting of the cross-party All-Party Parliamentary Group for Southern Rail, which has been set up to scrutinise the service provided by GTR.
Mr Smith said: “I’m pleased to be joining once again with MPs from differing political parties to hold Govia Thameslink Railway and the unions to account for the misery they are continuing to cause Crawley commuters. I’m looking forward to working as the Group’s Secretary.
“Myself and other MPs have continued to raise this issue in Parliament, and with the rail operator, the unions, and the Department for Transport.
“As the Prime Minister continues to confirm ministerial appointments please be assured I will continue to take this issue up with the new Secretary of State for Transport.”
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