Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, has secured a number of assurances from Southern following months of disruption to rail services.
During a heated exchange with the Chief Executive Officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, Charles Horton, she sought and received a reassurance that additional carriages will be in greater use on the Uckfield line, following the extension of station platforms to facilitate it. The pledge was confirmed in a follow-up letter from Mr Horton, which said additional carriages by the end of this month would be enabling “more key trains to operate in 10 car formations and providing a much needed 50% increase in capacity during the morning peak.”
Following Ms Ghani’s repeated requests for replacement services on the Uckfield line during strikes, which have so far not been provided, the Chief Executive has also “instructed my team to explore further what could be done to provide some form of bus replacement services for the Uckfield line, should there be any further industrial action.” He has promised to “actively look at what could be done on a targeted basis to enable your constituents to access rail services in and out of London on strike days.”
Commenting, Ms Ghani said: “It has been totally irresponsible of Southern not to plan properly for strike action, especially as so many of my constituents have paid for a service and repeatedly been left without any way of travelling to and from London on strike days. Though I obviously hope that there are no more strikes, I expect Southern to provide a replacement service if the RMT take the irresponsible decision to go on strike again.
“Passengers have been left with a dire service for the last twelve months and beyond. And although we’ve had agreement from Southern to work harder to make sure that the platform extensions are being used to their full potential with more longer trains, especially important at peak times, more needs to be done. We need to see tangible improvements following months and years of disruption and discomfort.
“A reliable, comfortable and reasonably priced train service to London is not a luxury or a wish. It is a basic expectation when passengers pay so much for it. I will continue to press Southern to deliver what passengers expect them to deliver.
“I will be doing just that on Thursday, when my campaign continues with a further meeting with the Rail Minister and Charles Horton to make sure that the assurances in his letter are genuine and that this is the beginning of real improvements. I will also hand him yet more recent letters and emails from passengers who are being affected day in and day out.”
Last night, Ms Ghani spoke in a House of Commons debate on the Govia Thameslink rail service, and reminded the Government that the pre-strike level of service was poor even before the current industrial dispute began. She said: “even though passengers are being failed by GTR and Southern, going back to the status quo is no longer acceptable. When the service is running at full capacity, my constituents on the Uckfield line have to suffer the so-called the misery line, so even the status quo is not good enough.”