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Action needed on London Bridge rail chaos

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27 January 2015
HA in front of Parliament This morning I led a debate in Parliament on the effect of the redevelopment of London Bridge Station on rail services. I called for this debate following a huge number of complaints I have received regarding overcrowding and cancellations on the Southeastern network since the new timetable was introduced on 12th January.

The new timetabling arrangements have come into force to account for the ongoing disruption at London Bridge Station as part of the Thameslink works. From 12 January 2015 Southeastern services to and from Charing Cross do not stop at London Bridge. They will resume stopping at London Bridge in August 2016, at which point Southeastern services to and from Cannon Street will not call at London Bridge. This arrangement will last until early 2018.

In the past fortnight Cannon Street services, which are now the only Southeastern services which stop at London Bridge, have been dangerously overcrowded and this has had an impact on the rest of the network in South East London. There have even been reports of fights at stations on lines into London Bridge because of the frustration of people being unable to get on a train. 

I sometimes make my own commute into central London by train (now preferring the bus!) and it is clear to me that the rail network is in chaos at the moment. It has always been bad but now some services are abysmal. Just before I delivered my speech I saw the news from Passenger Focus that Southeastern have the lowest passenger satisfaction rating in the whole country – this was before the new timetable even came into effect. Since the new timetable has been running the complaints I have received increased tenfold. Most people understand the need for works at London Bridge but what has always been a poor, overcrowded service is now atrocious. People are being made to pay exorbitant sums for their travel, yet many struggle to even get on a train.

In my speech I pressed the Rail Minister for extra carriages on Cannon Street services and asked her to make it her priority to ensure that every rush hour train arriving into this station be formed of 12 cars to ease overcrowding. The call for 12 car trains is a long-standing campaign of mine, but the past fortnight has shown that the need is now even more pressing. I also called for an improved communications drive from Southeastern which advises passengers of the alternative routes available to them, and the revised ticketing arrangements - waiting for frustrated passengers to work out alternative routes for themselves is not a strategy. I set out my views to the Rail Minister that Southeastern should not expect passengers to pay increased fares until an improved service is delivered.

You can read my speech here. You can also read the full debate in Parliament (including contributions from my colleagues Jim Dowd, Clive Efford and the response from the Rail Minister) on Hansard here.

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