As a commuter to London myself I’m well aware that Southern Railway services have been unacceptable for over a year now.
This is an issue I’ve continued to pursue with the Transport Secretary and Govia Thameslink Railway, operator of Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services.
In September 2016 I secured and led a debate in the House of Commons on the underperformance of GTR. Among the issues raised were the importance of enhanced compensation measures, and while the Government has since brought such changes in, I’m aware that this is a short-term remedy.
I contributed to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry on rail journeys by providing examples of local commuters’ experiences of travelling on the network. I also worked as part of a group of MPs to hold the Government, rail operators, and the RMT and ASLEF unions to account.
Earlier this year the Government confirmed £300 million of funding for engineering upgrades and fixes on Southern/Thameslink lines; Network Rail will target locations where the most significant delays have been shown to originate, causing recurring problems for the train operator and passengers.
Work will include: replacing tracks and signalling and renewing key junctions; improving security to help prevent trespass; improving drainage in Victorian era tunnels to prevent water damage to electrical equipment; and shoring up cuttings and embankments to reduce the risk of landslides.
I’m extremely aware that reading a list of improvement works is of little consolation when on a cramped and delayed train.
As a daily commuter from Three Bridges to London unacceptable Southern services have made me miss meetings myself. I’m aware that this disruption is more than an inconvenience, and can have a severe effect on people’s home lives, work, as well as on the condition of the local economy.
In October I publicly condemned Crawley Borough Council voting against a motion which called on the RMT union to end their strikes affecting Southern services.
I’ve continually said that the parties need to work together on this issue – both the rail operator and the union have questions to answer. It was disappointing to see Crawley Labour councillors putting politics before people.
Commuters, including myself, know that the actions of GTR and the RMT are not acceptable and they need to come together to benefit passengers.
The Conservative Party Manifesto includes a commitment to stand up for rail users through the introduction of a passenger ombudsman. If re-elected the Government will also review rail ticketing procedures.
A Conservative Government will work with train companies and staff to agree minimum service levels during periods of industrial dispute. If these can’t be found the Government will bring forward legislation.
If I’m re-elected to serve Crawley in the House of Commons this is an issue I’ll continue to pursue. Last year I secured and led a House of Commons debate on local train services. This was meant to be a cross-party effort, however no Labour MPs chose to take part. Nonetheless I’ve continued to follow up with the Transport Secretary and his ministerial team.
It’s telling that a month after my debate in the Commons, Crawley Labour councillors opposed a motion which called on the RMT union to end their strikes affecting Southern services. Among them was Jeremy Corbyn’s parliamentary candidate for our town.
In contrast, I’ll continue to stand up for Crawley rail passengers – whether I’m pursuing the issue with Ministers, train companies or striking trade unions.