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It's time for action on our rail network

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14 April 2015

As commuters in Lewisham will know all too well, yesterday passengers were faced with yet more delays, cancellations and communication failures on the Southeastern network.

This is exasperating for everyone and it would be impossible for me to overstate how shambolic commuters in South East London find the service they receive. The last five years of fare hikes just add insult to injury. Network Rail and SouthEastern need to get a grip on this chaos and quickly and more excuses simply won't cut it. 

Below is a copy of a letter sent to Network Rail, Southeastern and the Rail Minister by five Labour Parliamentary candidates in South East London where we ask them to take action to ensure yesterday’s disruption won’t be repeated again:


Mr Mark Carne
Chief Executive
1 Eversholt Street 
NW1 2DN 

Mr David Statham
PO Box 63428

Ms Claire Perry
Rail Minister
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road

13 April 2015

Dear Mr Carne, Mr Statham and Ms Perry

Problems on the Southeastern network – morning of Monday 13 April 2015

We are writing to you on behalf of the thousands of commuters in South East London who were affected by problems on the Southeastern network during this morning’s rush hour. 

We are aware that many services were severely delayed and others cancelled. We understand from your media statements that this is due to a combination of defective trains, signalling failures and overrunning engineering works at London Bridge. Sadly, this is an all too common refrain from Southeastern and Network Rail and this level of disruption cannot continue. 

This is not the first time that our constituents have faced this sort of chaos and we would like to know what lessons were learnt from those events and what contingency plans you put in place.  Given that we had major disruption resulting in a seriously dangerous situation at London Bridge at the start of the New Year due to engineering work overrunning, it is unacceptable that a similar situation has been allowed to occur again.  Too many trains are cancelled or delayed due to poor maintenance and yet again this has contributed to chaos on Southeastern services. We understand arrangements were made today for commuters to use alternative bus routes – sadly, this didn’t appear to be properly communicated to bus drivers which exacerbated frustrations. 

Commuters in South East London regularly experience delayed, cancelled and heavily overcrowded services. We know that elsewhere in London “delay repay” schemes have been introduced which include automatic compensation for delays over two minutes. Can Southeastern commuters expect their train operator to follow the lead of these providers and adequately compensate passengers for the delays and disruption they so regularly experience?

Many commuters in South East London have seen fare rises of over 25% since 2010, yet these rises have not been accompanied by any improvement in services. We believe that fares should not increase until services for passengers in South East London improve dramatically and capacity on the network increased in order to ease overcrowding. 

Finally, we are concerned that earlier this year Passenger Focus announced Southeastern Rail has the lowest passenger satisfaction rating in the whole country. We believe Transport for London should become the franchising authority for the network currently operated by Southeastern when their franchise expires in 2018. We would be grateful for the Rail Minister’s comments on this proposal.

London is a fantastic city to live and work in, but too often it is let down by failing rail services such as that operated by Southeastern. People pay huge amounts of money to travel to work and they have the right to demand an excellent service. 

We hope you will address the concerns raised in our letter and work together to deliver the sort of rail service that Londoners deserve.

Yours sincerely

Heidi Alexander
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham East

Clive Efford
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Eltham

Vicky Foxcroft
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham Deptford

Teresa Pearce
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Erith and Thamesmead

Matthew Pennycook
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich

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