Nus Ghani, MP for Wealden, has once again called on the Government to set clear targets for Southern and Network Rail following ever worsening levels of performance for rail users in the South East.
Ms Ghani attended the South East Quadrant Taskforce meeting, also attended by regional MPs, Ministers, Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Transport Focus and the Department for Transport’s Passenger Services team, at which she said all the organisations involved should be “ashamed” for their performance and questioned the point of publishing a “timetable which is not worth the paper it’s written on.” At the heated meeting, she asked why Govia Thameslink Railway operators of the Southern franchise do not take a zero tolerance approach when employees are regularly not showing up for work, and raised passenger communication failures and unsatisfactory compensation procedures.
She cited two particular examples of Southern’s failure to perform, raised with her by constituents, which included the early termination of services and the fact that for some passengers over 90% of trains do not meet timetabled times.
Speaking following the meeting, Ms Ghani said:
I don’t know how many times I have met with officials at Southern both since and before my election as an MP, but at each and every one of those meetings I have heard the same old promises and plans for improvement. It’s no better when I meet with Network Rail either. Every time we meet, the horizon for improvements is pushed back by 6 months, to 12 months, then to 18 months.
But 2016 has begun as 2015 finished, with performance statistics at appallingly low levels and my constituents having to put up with unsatisfactory service which shows no signs of improvement. The Government must set clear targets, on management performance, communication with passengers, planning in advance of disruption, procedures for giving compensation for disruption and plans for investment. If those targets are not met, there will be some very strong arguments in favour of finding an alternative holder of the franchise.
Last week, Ms Ghani wrote for a second time to the Chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, urging the Committee to conduct its own inquiry into Southern’s performance. Having originally requested an inquiry in July 2015, she has persisted with her campaign by writing again that: “Holding an inquiry will enable Southern and Network Rail to publicly set out their reasons for why the disruption is occurring, and should allow them to better appreciate the inconvenience and exasperation they are causing when making their plans.”