I am writing this column days after the Prime Minister appointed a new Rail Minister; having already welcomed him to Three Bridges Station in one of his first ministerial visits to personally make him aware of the necessity of resolving the unacceptable level of service on Southern and Thameslink routes.
As I told the Minister; while the £6 billion Thameslink upgrade programme with its new 12 carriage trains each carrying up to 1,750 people is welcome, the ongoing disruption we are suffering is untenable.
Govia Thameslink Railway (who deliver both Southern and Thameslink services) continue to provide an unacceptable level of performance, which has not been helped by trade unions, whose strikes and continued levels of staff ‘sickness’ have only added to the chaos.
GTR have taken on more than 200 extra drivers, however we simply are not seeing anything resembling an improved service due to ongoing industrial action. As I write, the RMT are again calling a ballot for their staff to take industrial action.
I continue to work alongside Members of Parliament from all parties in calling for GTR and the unions to work alongside the Department for Transport to ensure a resolution.
I am also supporting a campaign from consumer champions ‘Which?’, calling for clearer information for passengers on how to claim for a refund due to rail delays, and for all train operators to offer cash as a default for refunds.
Please be assured of my continuing attention with regard to this issue.
Henry Smith MP