Campaigners grill rail boss over services

Phil Hutchinson addresses the meeting
Phil Hutchinson addresses the meeting
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Picture: Paul Jacobs (142476-269)

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IMPROVEMENTS need to be made on the rail network servicing thousands of commuters in the area.

That was the message from members of an action group at its annual meeting held in Fareham over the weekend.

Railfuture Wessex branch met with a representative from rail firm Southern to hear about what the new franchise operator will do.

But members of the group told The News they want to see passenger comfort, service reliability and speed all improved.

Chairman David Brace said: ‘The prediction for the future is quite frightening.

‘At the moment studies are showing South West Trains’ routes into London are going to have to provide 60 per cent more capacity in the next 30 years.

‘They already have a shortfall in that of 20 per cent.’

The meeting heard from Phil Hutchinson from Govia Thameslink Railway, parent body of the franchise – including Southern.

He outlined major improvements, including cutting the length of the London Victoria to Portsmouth Harbour journey time by around five minutes.

The firm will also spend £9.8m on staff training and £50m on stations – but these are outside of the Portsmouth area.

Under questioning he admitted that the Portsmouth to Brighton line is unlikely to get toilets on board the train – meaning commuters will have to hold on to the next stop for facilities.

Railfuture treasurer John Holland added: ‘You can be on there for an hour and a half and there’s no toilet.’

But he said users must be able to rely on routes. He added: ‘The main thing is reliability of the service, it has been unreliable.’

Peter Moody, 65, of Roman Grove, Portchester, was at the meeting and said he wanted to see improvements to the London Waterloo to Portsmouth line.

He said: ‘I know they can do it – there’s an awful lot of slack on the timetable.’