Lo­cal MP’s view

Rail (UK) - - Network News -

Twice a day, MP Henry Smith spends an hour on a South­ern train.

He es­ti­mates that this year there have been only half a dozen oc­ca­sions when he has not ex­pe­ri­enced some kind of is­sue on his jour­ney to or from his Craw­ley con­stituency.

“Pas­sen­gers have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chronic de­lays, and the prob­lems haven’t got any bet­ter,” he said.

“There has been an un­ac­cept­ably poor ser­vice from GTR.”

Smith said it was due to “a per­fect storm of prob­lems” in­clud­ing de­lays to ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects, ca­pac­ity is­sues and rail unions “taking ad­van­tage” of the sit­u­a­tion.

“Pas­sen­gers aren’t in­ter­ested in child­ish bick­er­ing be­tween the sides in this dis­pute,” he said.

How­ever, he thinks taking away the fran­chise at this stage would not help: “I do think that with hind­sight a bet­ter fran­chise model - maybe smaller fran­chises - might have been a bet­ter way to go for­ward, so there are lessons to be learned.

“You can take away the fran­chise in name, but it’s still go­ing to be the same peo­ple run­ning the rail­way.

“It sounds a very ap­peal­ing so­lu­tion, but I don’t know whether it would nec­es­sar­ily solve the is­sues. I think it’s right to move to a 21st cen­tury rail­way, but there is a lot of pain in the in­terim.”

The of­fi­cial line from the Depart­ment for Trans­port is sim­i­lar.

In a state­ment to RAIL, it said: “Our po­si­tion re­mains that a change in man­age­ment would not solve the prob­lems and risks the progress be­ing made al­ready. It would also de­lay im­prove­ments that the oper­a­tor is bring­ing in.”

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