Worthing MPs meet rail bosses to discuss ‘current crisis’

Passengers using Southern services have faced delays this morning.
Passengers using Southern services have faced delays this morning.
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Both Worthing MPs met rail bosses this week to discuss the ‘current crisis’ passengers have faced recently.

Services have been heavily affected in the last few months by strikes and high levels of staff sickness, leading to frequent delays and cancellations.

Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley and Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, met managers at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which operates the Southern franchise, in Parliament on Wednesday (June 9).

At the meeting, Sir Peter spoke to Dyan Crowther, chief operating officer of GTR.

He told Ms Crowther: “Travellers need to know in advance whether a service will be cancelled.

“Until the current crisis is over, operators should write notices in the local paper, saying what went well and what went badly the previous week, and what they anticipate will happen in the next few days.

“Special care should be taken to avoid cancelling the last trains to Worthing from London and Gatwick. Passengers need to know if a service is cancelled or will not be stopping at every advertised station.

“In this case, vulnerable passengers and people with special needs should be identified by conductors and rail staff and given the necessary assistance to help their journey home.’

Sir Peter and other Sussex MPs are currently organising a third rail summit with minister Claire Perry in the near future.

Sir Peter added: “We hope to come to a positive agreement in the interests of all.”

Prior to the meeting, Mr Loughton wrote to GTR about its ‘continuing woeful performance figures and poor response to RMT’s industrial action’.

In his letter he said he is being ‘deluged’ with complaints via email and on social media from constituents having a ‘torrid time trying to get to work’.

While Mr Loughton had ‘little sympathy’ with the RMT union over its strike action, he felt the public was not receiving enough information on how Southern is trying to resolve the problem, and how to best plan for any disruption.

He explained on Twiter that MPs and managers from GTR are meeting this week to discuss the ‘continuing appalling performance of Southern trains’.

In reply Charles Horton, chief executive officer at GTR, said the RMT were refusing to discuss proposed changes to the role of its on-board staff, freeing them up provide better customer service and visibility.

The significant increase in the levels of staff sickness were ‘regrettable’, but they had taken the decision to pre-emptively cancel 19 trains each day to reduce ad-hoc cancellations.

He added: “I am very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our passengers and your constituents who are affected by these issues.”

Responding to a question about the Shoreham subway, Mr Horton explained that Network Rail were reviewing proposals and the issues and were hoping to set up a meeting to discuss them with Mr Loughton and the Shoreham Society.

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