Croydon’s Tory MPs Chris Philp and Gavin Barwell have been accused by a fellow south London Conservative MP of “playing politics” with people’s lives over the mismanagement of Southern Rail.
Philp and Barwell have also been criticised for using the latest above-inflation hike in rail fares – as approved by the Conservative Government – as a devious excuse for “data scraping”, and collecting email addresses from residents who want to claim refunds for poor service on the commuter railway line, operated by Govia Thameslink on behalf of the Department for Transport.
Bob Neill, the Tory MP for Bromley, is among a number of politicians from various parties who are backing calls from Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, for control of commuter railway routes to be handed over to Transport for London.
It is a move being blocked by Chris Grayling, the Tory transport minister who has previously expressed his utter opposition to handing control of the commuter lines to a Labour Mayor, presumably because he prefers to advance his own petty politicial interests by using millions of pounds of public subsidy to support private profits despite the crass mismanagement of the railways.
When Grayling’s prejudicial position was revealed last month, Neill ignored party interests in favour of speaking up on behalf of his constituents and made a forthright call for the minister’s resignation.
Meanwhile, career politician Barwell spoke publicly in support of Grayling. Philp, who spent much of the past year saying that he wanted Southern to be stripped of its franchise and for its fare rises to be blocked, has recently adopted something closer to the Conservative Party line on the issue, laying the blame on the rail unions for Southern’s shortcomings.
On Thursday, Neill tweeted that “the interests of hard-pressed commuters are more important than party politics on this”, something which is implicitly critical of Barwell, Philp and Croydon’s Tories, who spent the start of the week running a campaign which somehow overlooked the 27per cent increase in rail fares since the Conservatives took charge of Government in 2010.
Their leaflet, headlined without irony “Standing Up For Passengers”, was handed out at stations this week, misleading rail travellers by stating “details will be announced very soon about how to claim your season ticket refund, whether you use annual, monthly or weekly season tickets”.
In fact, as Philp and Barwell should know very well, and as Inside Croydon reported at the time, details of the refund system and how to claim compensation were announced a month ago by DafT. The refund announcement was made around the same time that the latest above-inflation fare rises were approved by Barwell and Philp’s Tory government.
This week, though, rather than provide commuters with a direct link or address for them to make their compensation claim, in a cynical move to acquire more email addresses for campaign purposes, Barwell and Philp suggested that Croydon residents should send them their contact details.
It is, of course, not the first time that Barwell has played fast and loose in efforts to collect personal data, and he has been subject to several complaints to the Data Protection commissioner and parliamentary authorities.
On this occasion, Barwell and Philp’s leaflet prompted Sean Fitzsimons, the Labour councillor for Addiscombe, to accuse the Tories of a “clear case of these two MPs misrepresenting the public”.
If you want to claim compensation from Southern for their incompetent running of the railways, you do not need to send your email or contact details to Barwell or Philp.
- To put your name to a petition to “Sack Southern” and hand over the commuter routes to TfL, click here
- Southern Failways: The train driver’s story
- Southern Failways: The Tories’ role in Croydon’s commuter chaos
- Southern Failways: Civil servant wants ‘to break’ rail unions
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