MP calls for overhaul of ‘poor’ train services

Train operator Southern has come under fire from Fareham MP Suella Fernandes

Train operator Southern has come under fire from Fareham MP Suella Fernandes

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A DRASTIC improvement in ‘shambolic’ rail services to London needs to happen or the operator’s contract should be removed, according to Fareham MP Suella Fernandes.

The Tory politician spoke in the House of Commons yesterday and posed questions to Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin.

She asked for the government to remove Southern’s franchise if its service does not improve.

Miss Fernandes said: ‘Southern rail allegedly serves Fareham, Swanwick and Portchester stations in my constituency, but commuters are fed up with the cancellations and severe delays.

‘I am glad that the Secretary of State acknowledges that the service is not good enough, but will he reassure me that the mainline west and coastway west routes will be considered as part of the future improvement plans?

‘Will the franchise be withdrawn if no improvement is shown?’

Mr McLoughlin said the country was ‘seeing unprecedented growth in rail traffic and transport’ and said the government had increased its investment.

Speaking afterwards, Miss Fernandes said: ‘The service is really poor and inadequate and it is not good enough.

‘There is a pattern of really poor services, cancellations and delays. Southern’s franchise is not up for renewal until 2018 so there is still a lot of time to go.

‘Frankly the bosses of Southern should be ashamed. It is below par and they are running out of chances. We are seeing a rise in rail fares and a rise in delays. It is awful and shambolic.’

A Southern spokesman apologised and said work on London Bridge as part of the Thameslink Programme meant it had lost one of its four routes causing diversions to trains into Victoria.

He said: ‘This has seen a greater impact on performance than anybody anticipated with delays taking four times longer to recover from.

‘With the improvement work going on, this makes an already congested railway far more susceptible to delays – a single signal fault, for example, is causing much longer delays which knocks on to affect many more services across the network, including the Portsmouth area.’

He said Southern has worked with Network Rail to rewrite the timetable to even out off-peak services to deliver more punctual trains in the evening rush hour.

He added: ‘With Network Rail we’re delivering everything we said we would on a joint improvement plan but we recognise there is more to be done.’

Miss Fernandes is also calling for people to take part in a government consultation on rail services being held because the South Western service - which also serves Fareham, Portchester, Swanwick stations - is up for renewal next year.

The consultation will run until February 9. To take part go to surveymonkey.com/r/PBMTHYB or e-mail SouthWesternFranchise2016@railexecutive.gsi.gov.uk

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