Commuters in Croydon are calling on local MP Chris Philp to carry out his threat to demand that Southern Railway be stripped of its train-operating franchise as a consequence of the abysmal level of service.
Philp has pursued the populist “bash the rail operator” stance almost from the moment he arrived as a Westminster new boy last year, writing this column for Inside Croydon (click here) in July.
It was a position Philp repeated last December, too, when he called on the operator to lose its franchise.
Now Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader has been in touch, urging Philp to carry out his threat.
It was reported last week that Southern had cancelled nearly 500 trains in one seven-day period due to “unprecedented” staff sickness levels. The absenteeism is widely thought to be the result of a working conditions dispute which will see a 24-hour strike staged this Wednesday.
A survey by the Consumers’ Association magazine, Which?, found that rail passengers in the south-east are the least satisfied in the country (no shit, Sherlocks), while watchdog Transport Focus named Thameslink, Southeastern and Southern as the nation’s least-popular operators. Research by the Department for Transport suggests that 20 per cent of rail passengers into London face a journey each day in which they are forced to stand in cramped conditions to their destination.
Meanwhile, commuters have been expected to pay ever-rising fares, reported to be the costliest in Europe. A 12-month season ticket from Coulsdon Town to Blackfriars can cost almost £2,000, for a service which is frequently delayed, cancelled or just unreliable.
Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, made his pledge to his constituents in March.
Then, Philp announced on Twitter that, “I will be calling on them to lose their franchise in May if the service hasn’t improved significantly by then.”
It seems unlikely that anyone would try to argue that there has been any improvement in the Southern service in the past eight weeks.
And that’s when the trains are running “normally”.
Commuters from Croydon on services from all operators have been particularly hard-hit by slow-running and unreliable trains for the past two years, during major engineering works at London Bridge which have also affected the running of Thameslink services on the Brighton to Bedford line.
The RMT union has called the strike in protest against what it calls the “threatening and abusive” stance Southern is adopting, including setting a deadline of May 20 for staff to sign up to plans to changes which will see the removal of onboard conductors on some routes.
Philp’s promise of action is pushing at an already open door. The Department for Transport has proposed that large chunks of the commuter network should be handed over to the control of the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The DfT has suggested that Transport for London could take control of all suburban services running to and from London Bridge, Charing Cross, Victoria and Waterloo, as operator contracts expire between 2017 and 2021.
TfL already operates the London Overground line which runs from West Croydon and Norwood Junction, to widespread praise for the efficiency of the service.
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