Transport issues remain a significant aspect of Tracey’s correspondence and none more so than rail services. As a result Tracey recently organised a meeting for Kent MPs to discuss the recent poor performance of Southeastern with Rail Minister Stephen Hammond.
It was a good opportunity for Tracey and colleagues to discuss various aspects of the local rail network including the probable awarding of a temporary extension to the franchise until 2018.
As commuters will know, there are major restructuring works taking place from 2015-2017 at London Bridge where a number of busy routes into London will be disturbed and by choosing to extend the franchise, hopefully the disruption to these services will be kept to a minimum.
However, there will be a major difference to the extended franchise that does not exist in the current one agreed by the last Government; customer satisfaction will be written into the new short Southeastern franchise and it will be broken down by line bringing much more transparency to the data. This is an important change for those who have found it hard to believe the data on punctuality and performance over the last few years, especially since the incredibly efficient HS1 and the not so good mainline route data were merged. The Minster assured that the DfT is committed to working with Southeastern to bring about improvements to their current performance and securing the best deal for passengers as they negotiate the extension of the franchise.
One of the main topics of discussion beyond the franchise was the recent poor performance of Southeastern trains. Since November the performance, and therefore satisfaction ratings, of Southeastern has fallen sharply to be among the worst in the national rail network. While it is true we have had particularly bad weather over the winter periods the problem does in part pre-date that and the Department for Transport felt the need to investigate the issue.
The DfT’s inquiry found some interesting results, not least that two thirds of the delays were not the fault of Southeastern but rather Network Rail’s. Some of this was down to inexcusable but standard problems like the over-running of weekend engineering works but others relate to fallen trees and landslips, much of which could be mitigated through good vegetation management and targeted drainage management.
One excellent piece of news that came out of the meeting was that HS1 will from this summer stop at Snodland. This will open up the route to more commuters from Snodland, Larkfield, Aylesford and surrounding villages.
MPs were assured that the DfT, from the Minister down, are aware of the problems with Southeastern’s performance and are keeping an eye on it. As is Tracey and Kent colleagues!