James Brokenshire has pressed the Department for Transport to ensure Southeastern Trains and Network Rail fulfil commitments to improve local rail services following a special summit convened by Rail Minister Claire Perry. At the roundtable meeting with MPs in Westminster last Thursday, James challenged rail bosses over the complaints of passengers on the Bexleyheath and Sidcup lines about reliability and overcrowding – particularly on peak services into Cannon Street.
Southeastern Trains’ new timetable has meant that Charing Cross services won’t stop at London Bridge until 2016 so that the transformation works at the key interchange can take place. But commuters have complained that this has put extra pressure onto Cannon Street trains with some services completely packed by the time they reach stations in Bexley.
The new Managing Director of Southeastern Trains, David Statham told MPs that the company was reviewing the impact of the new timetable, including passenger numbers on each service, to assess what changes were needed. Mr Statham also revealed that the company was in discussions with the Department for Transport to add additional train carriages to the network.
MPs representing constituencies served by Southeastern Trains pressed senior executives time and again over current performance, underlining the frustrations of commuters and the need for a much clearer focus on the needs of passengers. The event was chaired by Rail Minister, Claire Perry with representatives of Passenger Focus, London Travel Watch and the Office of the Rail Regulator also in attendance.
Commenting James said:
“Southeastern Trains’ performance just hasn’t been good enough with too few services arriving on time. Network Rail’s handling of the most recent changes at London Bridge has in their own words been ‘unacceptable’. Passengers rightly expect much better.
“What also seems clear is that the network needs additional train carriages on peak services to ease overcrowding. It’s important that discussions with the Department for Transport to secure additional carriages are advanced quickly to supplement the existing train fleet.
“But in the near term both Southeastern and Network Rail need to demonstrate an absolute focus on providing a consistent and timely service. Financial penalties should be applied by the Department for Transport if they fail to meet commitments. Ultimately Southeastern’s franchise is on the line unless there are significant improvements.”