Transport watchdog calls for review of Southern Rail franchise
PUBLISHED: 15:17 25 July 2016 | UPDATED: 15:25 25 July 2016
The move follows continued poor-quality service from the rail operator
A transport watchdog has called for a an independent review of the Southern Rail franchise that could see Transport for London (TfL) take charge of the service.
London TravelWatch proposed the measure after Southern put an emergency timetable in place last week that saw 341 trains a day withdrawn from an already reduced timetable over a four week period.
Some lines have suffered drastic cuts and it is not clear whether the revised timetable is proving to be a success.
However, Southern claimed the recent delays were due to circumstances beyond its control and said it has been working hard to restore the service.
Stephen Locke, chair of London TravelWatch, commented: “At the end of the four-week period, it is essential that the Department for Transport (DfT) and Southern carry out a swift review of progress.
“If it is not possible to reinstate the 341 lost services at this point, they should take up the welcome offer from the Mayor of London to make Transport for London’s operational expertise available to help turn the service round.
“Southern’s passengers have suffered enough. The situation is urgent, and now is the time to make full use of the strategic agreement between DfT and TfL announced earlier this year.”
The watchdog has called for compensation for delays to be triggered after 15 minutes - a pledge that was made by the chancellor last autumn.
It also claims prices should be reduced to reflect the quality of service, with only 32 per cent of Gatwick Express trains arriving within one minute of the advertised arrival time in the first quarter of the year.
A spokesperson for Southern Rail commented: In the first week, our revised timetable was delivering more punctual trains for the benefit of passengers with eight out of 10 trains arriving on time compared to just six out of 10 before it was introduced – and we put 16 services back in to the timetable five days after it started.
“But last week, when London TravelWatch called for this review, our service was hit significantly by issues outside our control, including overrunning engineering work, a deep hole caused by a collapsed sewer that closed all four main lines in and out of London Bridge on Monday evening and multiple signal failures.
“Right now, at GTR, all our focus is on resolving the immediate issues to restore the service that passengers rightly expect, not arguments about political control. We apologise unreservedly to passengers for the quality of service they’re presently experiencing. We are committed to a long-term franchise, reporting to the Department for Transport.”