MP almost missed meeting with rail bosses due to cancelled train

Crawley MP Henry Smith
Crawley MP Henry Smith

Crawley’s MP almost missed a meeting with rail bosses on Wednesday due to a cancelled train.

Passengers using Southern and Thameslink services, which are both run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), have faced repeated delays and cancellations in the past few months and MPs met the rail operator’s senior managers at Westminster this week to demand answers.

GTR is currently embroiled in a bitter row with rail union RMT over the future role of conductors on services and has experienced high levels of staff sickness since strikes began.

Crawley MP Henry Smith said: “Following the meeting and further discussions I had with them just a fortnight ago, I’m still deeply concerned at their ability to ensure a suitable service to Crawley rail passengers – most of us who use the trains regularly will know that what has been provided in recent months just isn’t acceptable.

“While I welcomed £26 million of investment at Three Bridges, and the opening of the Thameslink traincare facility at the same station last year as well as new, longer trains now coming into service soon, I’ll continue to work alongside other MPs, GTR and the Government to ensure a better service is provided.

“It won’t come as a shock to any Crawley commuters to know that I almost missed the meeting because of a cancelled train.”

Last week Labour’s Michael Jones, a Crawley borough and West Sussex county councillor, called for the Southern franchise to be stripped from GTR as even routine journeys were now an ‘ordeal’.

Mr Smith has previously criticised the service on offer to Crawley passengers, including during a debate specifically on GTR and Network Rail in March 2016.

He added: “The £6 billion Thameslink upgrade programme, with its new 12 carriage trains each carrying up to 1,750 people is welcome, but the ongoing disruption is untenable. While GTR have taken on more than 200 extra drivers, we’re not seeing an improved service due to the ongoing industrial action.

“The Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, wrote to local MPs yesterday, and I’m sharing this letter while continuing to press the point that all sides need to remember that it’s passengers who must come first.”

In his letter McLoughlin said: “I am writing to let you know what is being done to expand and improve services on the Southern and Thameslink rail routes, following repeated poor performance, made much worse by unjustified industrial action.

“The current situation is unacceptable: I want to see the operator, GTR, and Network Rail work together to sort things out and I know they share my determination to make this happen.”

He said the changes to the on-board role would help train performance, improve customer service, and fewer cancellations.

But last week RMT general secretary Mick Cash said they would ‘not tolerate’ any attempt to blame the current situation on front-line staff.

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