Thameslink services were today debated in Westminster Hall, as Jeremy Quin, MP For Horsham put forward a motion to debate the recent performance of Govia Thameslink and Network Rail specifically in the South East.
You can watch the full debate on the parliament.tv website, starting at 14:30 and lasting around an hour and a half, but if you just want to see Claire Perry, Rail Ministers response to the issues raised you can skip ahead to 15:45 for this.
So, what did Claire have to say about recent performance?
On the performance of Govia Thameslink and Network Rail:
We know performance on this network that carries almost a quarter of all rail passengers is not up to standard. There are three route causes of the current issues: The Thameslink Upgrade Programme, Passenger growth without investment in the railway from sucessive government, and finally the daily persistent infrastructure issues which are intollerable.
What about customer satisfaction?
Both in public and private ownership, the customer has never really been the focus of the service. There is no current measure to capture the loss of productivity to the customer when held up by train delays. This is something that the Department for Transport is currently looking at as there needs to be something in place for this.
What about the driver shortages on the Thameslink network?
Govia Thameslink currently have between 6 and 7% fewer drivers than they need to run the service. Their current recruitment plans mean that they should have enough drivers to run at operational plan by August 2016 and they are currently on track to deliver this.
What about ticket office closures?
Nothing can happen without agreement from the Department for Transport, however we believe that the future of rail tickets is digital. If the keycard system was working across the network then there might be a better arguement to evaluate the need for staffed ticket offices.
How have Thameslink been held acountable for their shortcomings?
Govia Thameslink have been fined more than £2m for service cancellation and short formations, and this money is to be spent to directly benefit customers on this route.
What about wifi onboard the trains?
The Department for Transport has committed to roll out free wifi by 2018 across all of Englands rail network. New trains will be fitted with this capability and the technology will be retro-fitted to older rolling stock.
Should the DfT consider more drastic action, such as revoking the franchaise?
This is a busy complex rail franchase to run, and there is no one better than current management team to do so. There needs to be a relentless focus on the customer, and that is what we expect the private sector to deliver.
So there you have it! Do you agree with Claires comments? Where GTR fined appropriately? Should ticket office closures go ahead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.