The ‘unacceptable’ disruption to train services over the last few months has been raised with ministers and rail bosses by Chichester and Bognor Regis’ MPs.
A number of West Sussex MPs attended a meeting with Network Rail, rail minister Claire Perry, and Govia Thameslink Railway - which runs both Thameslink and Southern - at Westminster on Monday to discuss problems to services since the end of last year.
A similar rail summit was organised in May last year an improvement plan was put in place for Southern services, but the punctuality of trains between the south coast and London dipped in late 2015, with some politicians calling for GTR to be stripped of their franchises unless they showed ‘immediate improvement’.
Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie said: “I hope that the Government and the rail companies will take the concerns raised in the rail summit to heart, and ensure that the promised improvements are indeed carried out, and soon.
“Many of my constituents rely on these train services to get to work every day, and I have received a number of letters raising concerns about the frequent delays and cancellations of trains.
“I have previously written to the transport secretary to reinforce these concerns.”
Nick Gibb, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP was unable to attend the meeting, but said afterwards: “The disruption and poor service faced daily by many of my constituents is unacceptable.
“The meeting today was essential in order to uncover the reasons behind the recent service performance and to review the plan for delivering a better service going forward.”
Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, added: “We gave GTR/Southern and Network Rail a very hard time indeed about underperformance on this railway. A number of us said that we had simply lost faith in the assurances that things would improve, and we now wanted to see results, not words.
“I repeated, along with a number of MPs, that if there was not immediate improvement then GTR/Southern should forfeit its franchise and Network Rail should be held accountable.
“It was a tough meeting which must have been extremely uncomfortable for the rail industry, but rightly so. Our constituents are fed up of the constant disruption in the service on which they rely. We all understand about the pressures on these lines and the investment which is being made at London Bridge, but there can be no more excuses.”
In a joint statement Network Rail and GTR said: “We had a challenging but constructive meeting with the minister, listening to MPs and explaining what we are doing to improve services.
“Network Rail and GTR are working closely together to increase punctuality, with Network Rail making track, signalling and other systems more dependable and GTR bringing in new, more reliable trains this spring and still more drivers.
“Increased passenger demand and essential improvement work at London Bridge has made any problems that do occur on the Brighton Main Line up to four times more difficult to recover from, as there is simply less room for the huge number of trains we run every day.
“However, when this work is finished, our services will be transformed for passengers with greater connectivity and more capacity to, from and through the heart of London.”
Rail minister Claire Perry added: “It’s inexcusable that customers on this part of the rail network aren’t receiving the service they deserve. There are problems that are being fixed, such as driver shortages and old trains. But the operator and Network Rail have still got to do better when it comes to fixing faults and communicating with their passengers. We are all completely committed to getting this railway back to high performance by 2018.”
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