It took a hitherto little-regarded local Conservative councillor to flag up the futility of Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South, staging a public meeting with executives of Southern Railways.
Philp has threatened to demand that Southern lose its franchise for the commuter “service” which it delivers, badly, to thousands of his constituents, commuters who have to travel in to London each weekday on often late-running, over-crowded trains from Coulsdon, Purley and Croydon South.
Southern has been shown to provide the worst rail service in Britain. But rather than act on his oft-repeated threat, Philp opted to stage a meeting in Purley last night, attended by a couple of suits from the train operators. As if they are accountable to the public or something.
Luke Clancy is one of those back-bench Croydon councillors who get paid an allowance, but whom are rarely heard from in the Town Hall chamber. Last night’s public meeting on railways gave him a moment in the spotlight without having to wait for permission from his party’s leadership.
Clancy, who has been a councillor for Coulsdon West ward since 2014 (not that anyone had noticed), stood up at the meeting with questions which highlighted that the privatised rail companies are only in the business of using largely publicly funded infrastructure to maximise dividends for their private shareholders.
This is his exchange, as he noted online immediately after the meeting (Clancy is a journalist, so his verbatim notes are sure to be entirely accurate):
Clancy: The company that owns Southern Rail last year made at least £25 million profit, and its chief executive earns more than £2 million per year. Given your low scoring in customer satisfaction surveys, do you think that is justified?
Southern executive: We don’t recognise those figures.
Clancy: I’m quoting from the Evening Standard. Can you then tell us what your profits are?
Southern exec: The current financial year’s figures are still subject to audit and haven’t been released yet.
Clancy: OK, can you tell us what profits you made in the previous financial year then?
Southern exec: I’m sorry, we don’t have those figures to hand.
The epitome, surely, of utter unaccountability.“I have the misfortune of paying to travel on Southern Rail five to six days a week, sometimes seven, whilst it is rated worst in Britain,” Clancy wrote.
“Commuters from Coulsdon South expressed intense frustration at the meeting that their station is skipped so often in order for the rail company to regulate services. Even the Southern execs admitted that at 1.85per cent of the time the frequency with which trains skip picking up passengers at Coulsdon South is abnormal.”
For the avoidance of any doubt, Clancy is a councillor from the Conservative Party which privatised our public rail system promising improved services.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Philp has still to deliver on his threat of demanding that Southern be stripped of its franchise. It’s beginning to feel a lot like waiting for that delayed 08.12 from Coulsdon South that never arrives…
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