We rely on good train services into Central London to get us to and from work and around the capital. However, Southeastern Railways performance, both in terms of reliability and capacity have long been a problem along with issues on customer service which require urgent improvements.
The decision to cancel the competition for the future Southeastern franchise and to extend the current franchise up to April 2020 should not change the focus on passengers and delivering improvements. I am pressing Ministers at the Department for Transport for clarity on the next steps given the need for improvements on our local rail services. In particular, I am campaigning for a fleet of new modern air-conditioned trains to be introduced and believe that there is a real need to see passenger journeys upgraded and capacity boosted. I have received a commitment that Transport Ministers will follow up.
At a recent meeting with Southeastern and Network Rail, I had the opportunity to question them on the works they are undertaking at Barnehurst Station to ensure another landslip does not occur given the subsequent significant disruption this has caused to commuters in previous years. They provided assurance that they will be investing £6.5 million for engineering and bank strengthening works to deal with the section at the greatest risk near Barnehurst. The works will be carried out early next year.
I will continue to meet with Southeastern, Network Rail and the Department for Transport to encourage and emphasise the urgent need of immediate improvements to the service and to ensure my constituents’ voice is heard. However, looking further into the future, it is clear that important decisions need to be taken in order to ensure that the next plans for the Southeastern franchise really delivers upon the needs of Bexley passengers.