Sussex MPs establish cross-party group to look at Southern services

Passengers using Southern services in the last few months have encountered heavy delays and repeated cancellations SUS-160616-170603001
Passengers using Southern services in the last few months have encountered heavy delays and repeated cancellations SUS-160616-170603001

‘Misery’ for passengers using Southern services has led two Sussex MPs to establish a cross-party group to scrutinise the performance of the rail operator.

Labour MP for Hove Peter Kyle and Tory MP for Mid Sussex Sir Nicholas Soames are set to joint chair an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to meet regularly with the sole purpose of looking into the operational effectiveness and implementation of Southern’s improvement plan.

According to the two MPs Southern has ‘let down passengers repeatedly in recent months’, but in the face of such ‘comprehensive failure’, Sussex politicians have felt unable to deliver a degree of pressure and influence to deliver ‘tangible results our constituents need and deserve’.

Although numerous meetings have been arranged between MPs and rail bosses, promises and assurances have been passed on to constituents ‘only to have been left as disappointed as passengers by Southern’s failure to deliver’.

In a joint statement Sir Nicholas and Mr Kyle said: “Misery is being inflicted upon the people we were elected to serve for no other reason than them needing to get to the office on time, do a hard day’s work, and be home in time to enjoy an evening with their family. It is a grotesque way to run a modern rail service.

“The Southern rail service passes through political boundaries as well as geographical ones and so must our response if we are to represent people effectively.

“That’s why we are working together on this essential service in the hope of offering focussed, ongoing, and robust scrutiny of Southern’s operation and offer passengers the fierce advocacy they so desperately need”.

All MPs in the Southern commuter belt to the South of London will be invited to the inaugural meeting jointly chaired by Sir Nicholas and Mr Kyle at a date to be set for soon after the referendum. Full terms, remit, and scope will then be agreed.

It is anticipated that the group will register as an APPG and adopt some of the operational style of select committees by inviting witnesses, launching specific inquiries, and seeking to provide greater information and scrutiny to passengers and the public on an ongoing basis.

Both MPs met the chief executive officer and chief operating officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern services, last week and discussed this proposal and were assured full corporation and transparency with the group’s operation.

They therefore anticipate appearances of senior managers and operational staff before the group at its regular meetings in order to enable full scrutiny of the franchise by MPs on behalf of the passengers they represent.

The rail minister has also been informed, is fully supportive, and will similarly make herself available to the group to enable its work.

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