With impeccable timing – ironically– Monday (January 18) saw disruptions across rail services in the south east on the same day that rail bosses were called to Parliament to be grilled by MPs about lamentable services.
Some passengers using Southern abandoned their journeys while others were up to two hours late although representatives from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – the company running the Southern franchise – and Network Rail managed to make the private meeting.
The talks came just days after the Centre for London recommended that services in suburban south east London be absorbed into TfL’s popular Overground network and a month after Streatham MP Chuka Umunna called Southern’s offering “an appalling joke” .
More than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for the operator to lose its franchise.
MPs, including Rail Minister Claire Perry, left the meeting “frustrated”. Wealden MP Nus Ghani said: “I have met with officials at Southern countless times 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.
“All the organisations involved should be ashamed for their performance and I questioned the point of publishing a timetable which is not worth the paper it’s written on.”
She has called for the Commons Transport Select Committee to investigate Southern’s performance.
Mr Umunna said: “Southern Rail, by their own admission, don’t have enough decent trains and did not recruit enough drivers. Network Rail continually mismanage engineering works which are often delayed and overrun.”
Mrs Perry said: “What I want to do is grind forward with these improvements, improve the compensation regime which we’ve said we’ve done, improve passenger information, and get the whole industry focused on how vital this part of the railway is.”
A spokesman for Govia Thameslink Railway said: “We know the train service has not been good enough and apologise to passengers.”
State-owned Network Rail said it had delivered a huge amount of work over Christmas, completing 10 days of work at London Bridge and Purley on time.
It said would spend £4.1million to improve passenger services instead of paying a £2million fine that had been threatened by the transport regulator the Office of Road and Rail over the chaos at London Bridge.
The ORR said the Rail Reparation Fund would be used to “directly benefit” passengers on Govia Thameslink (GTR), Southern and Gatwick Express services which had been hit by Network Rail’s failings.