Rail Minister Claire Perry has affirmed her commitment to see significant improvements in performance on local rail services during a Parliamentary debate on Southeastern Trains. The Minister said current levels of delays were ‘unacceptable’ and her Department would be redoubling efforts to deliver the changes customers rightly expected. All three Bexley MPs attended the debate which was arranged by Bromley & Chislehurst MP Bob Neill.
On current performance Ms Perry said:
“Not only are the current levels of delays unacceptable, and in some cases inexcusable, but we have to get this working right to get the benefit out of the £6.5 billion the Government are investing in Thameslink. We have to keep demanding that Southeastern and Network Rail work together to keep the disruption to a minimum… We can demand improvements through the franchising programme, we can hold operators to account, we can demand plans and we can issue financial penalties, but what we actually want to do is run a reliable railway.
“I would be the first to acknowledge that the system is not delivering for customers at the moment. When we talk to commuters, we find that they have been incredibly tolerant and understanding. They welcome the investment, and they want to see a joined-up industry that can respond to their needs, particularly when there are disruptions and delays. It is my Department’s job to facilitate that, either through the contracting process or, through conversations with Network Rai. I give my full commitment to ensure that this happens.”
Transfer to the London Overground
On plans to transfer Southeastern’s metro services to Transport for London (TfL) and the London Overground network, the Minister said:
“The new partnership is designed to give passengers what they need. We are trying to design the industry around passengers and customers. This proposal could deliver more frequent services and more reliable trains. It would also move the decisions on stations and stopping patterns away from [Whitehall] and closer to the people who actually use the services. This will be similar to the devolution process that we have seen in relation to transport investment in the north, as well as the support for TfL.”
Decision on additional trains
On adding new train units to help ease overcrowding, Ms Perry said:
“I am determined to review the business case for running the additional, bigger 12-car trains on the metro service in particular. I can give an undertaking that there will be a decision on that in the next couple of months. If we decide to go ahead—if the business case is favourable —Southeastern will put additional trains on the tracks late in 2016.”
Review of passenger compensation
The Minister also revealed that the Government was re-examining the ‘delay repay’ arrangements for passengers when trains are delayed, adding:
“On compensation, in an ideal world we would not be paying it at all because the trains would be running perfectly on time. I am keen, however, to reform the delay repay scheme. It is already among the most generous in Europe; train users in other countries do not get a lot of money back. However, although in delay repay we have one of the most generous compensation schemes, we want to go further. As the Chancellor said in his autumn statement, we want to take the time at which the clock starts ticking from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, which will start to address some of my hon. Friend’s constituency problems. I expect to make announcements on that shortly.”
Commenting James Brokenshire said:
“I welcome the Rail Minister's comments on the need for significant improvements. Additional rolling stock, the transfer of metro services to the London Overground and improved compensation for passengers when things go wrong are all matters which I have been pushing for some time. I will continue to press for these changes and hold Southeastern to account to deliver a reliable rail service which meets the needs of passengers.”