Reliability problems with train services serving Worthing was raised by one of the town’s MPs with the rail minister this week.
Sir Peter Bottomley, Worthing West MP, was one of several politicians to meet Claire Perry, minister at the Department for Transport with responsibility for the railways, on Tuesday to lobby for improvements to services operated by Southern.
Primarily he raised problems with reliability, but also highlighted issues over long waiting times at level crossings.
Sir Peter said: “It is reliability which matters most. We would like to see a better service but first of all let’s try to make the existing service leave on time and arrive on time all the time.
“There’s a good railway line between Brighton and Worthing but some people who I represent who work at the university say it’s better to drive than go by train.”
In the medium and long term he felt there were ‘far too many’ level crossings, with some closing for four minutes before trains arrive, with instances of people waiting at the barriers for up to 20 minutes.
The junction of Tarring Road and South Street Tarring near Worthing West Railway Station was the ‘worst’, while constituents had raised issues with crossings in Ferring and the one in South Farm Road.
If rail strikes go ahead Sir Peter said he believed Southern should at least run a skeleton service to ensure there were some trains for people who relied on a service either for work, to visit elderly relatives, or to pick up their children on time.
Just this week commuters on Southern trains compared themselves to ‘animals travelling to the slaughter’, but the train operating company said that ‘the railway is even more popular than ever, with passenger numbers growing year on year’.
Rail users have been hit with severe delays twice in the last month. Problems with engineering work at Clapham Junction on April 30 led to an entire day of delays and widespread cancellations across Sussex, while emergency engineering works had to be carried out at Haywards Heath on May 20, which resulted in another day of misery for passengers.
In a letter to the MPs at Tuesday’s meeting Mrs Perry said she was ‘really proud’ of the Government’s investment in the multi-billion pound Thameslink project, but was also ‘extremely concerned’ about the direct and indirect impact works were having on passengers.
She said at times the delays and disruption were ‘simply inexcusable’, and was looking at a review of the problems on the specific lines carried out by Network Rail, which includes recommendations for both service and operational changes.
Earlier this month Southern also made hundreds of changes to its timetables, which included the removal of some peak time services, something that has annoyed many commuters.
One rail user wrote on Facebook: “Animals travelling to slaughter get more room by law than most people get travelling during peak times in overcrowded trains.
“Surely Southern know how many people travel on average during peak times and should provide the correct amount of rolling stock rather than maximising the profit made on a journey.”
A spokesperson for Southern said: “We have introduced new train fleets during the current franchise to meet this growth, providing a total number of additional carriages on our network to 227 – resulting in a net gain of over 10,000 extra seats across the network.
“This has provided some much needed relief to thousands of our passengers who now have a more comfortable journey.
“The decision to start the 6.56am Brighton to London Bridge service from Gatwick Airport was one of hundreds of changes made to departure times and calling patterns in the new summer timetable. These changes are designed to improve punctuality performance – something that we know is very important for our passengers.
“Looking ahead, the £6.5 billion Thameslink project will enable the introduction of more new trains on the Brighton Main Line, further increasing capacity.”
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