It will come as no surprise to anyone who commutes to London that the latest data shows the rail service provided by Southern is deteriorating. I’ve received hundreds of complaints in the last few weeks about delays on services to and from London Bridge, dangerous overcrowding on the concourse there and overcrowding on services to and from Victoria as commuters seek a different route to work. The data shows that there’s been a sharp drop in performance since Network Rail started working on the track approaching London Bridge last summer, but that things have been gradually getting worse for three years now.
Yesterday I and other MPs whose constituents rely on Southern services met with them, Network Rail, the Office of the Rail Regulator and Rail Minister Claire Perry.
Southern admitted that their current level of service is “poor” and that customers’ patience with their service is “wearing thin”. They claimed - and this was not disputed by Network Rail or the Office of the Rail Regulator - that the work going on at London Bridge to increase capacity on the Thameslink line is partially responsible. But they didn’t deny that they need to do better too.
They’ve published a performance improvement plan, which you can read here. It says that by May they will have:
• introduced new trains on Brighton to Bedford services;
• purchased some additional units so that they can lengthen some trains;
• upgraded 38 key junctions;
• made some changes to the timetable to improve reliability;
• recruited 41 more drivers; and
• switched to doing more maintenance at night.
Every MP who spoke expressed fury with the service their constituents are receiving. Several stressed the need to improve the quality of information provided to passengers and to make it easier for people to claim compensation. I asked two specific questions:
1. When will they have ironed out the teething problems with the new track alignment at London Bridge and be able to stick to a timetable? The answer I was given was the end of this month.
2. They've had to withdraw some rush hour services to and from London Bridge. Why can't they use the rolling stock from these services to increase capacity on the service to Victoria? The answer I was given was that if by the end of the month they have concluded that they will be unable to reintroduce these services while capacity on the approach to London Bridge remains constrained then they will try to do this.
My constituents pay a lot of money for their travelcards. They deserve better than the shoddy service they are getting at the moment. I will be making sure Southern honour the promises they have made.