This interim report promises to offer a route and branch re-organisation of UK railways but surprisingly it doesn’t mention the major effect which improved railways can have on tackling the climate change challenge. This is very surprising considering promises coming forward recently from the government to tackle climate change.
It’s disappointing to see that Mr Williams’ interim report assiduously avoids talking about the excessive rail ticket prices we have in the UK, and especially the automatic increases which are applied by the UK government each year to rail fares. The next increase is due in January 2020, and there seems to be no move to halt this unfair system which penalises rail passengers ensuring we have the highest rail fares in Europe!
However, it’s worth taking time to look at this forecast of what will be in the final report later on in the autumn as the changes predicted are potentially quite substantial.
Network Rail is developing proposals to remove the railway bottleneck at Croydon to deliver improved service for the 300,000 passengers who travel to London on the Brighton Main Line. The plans would see the railway remodelled with new flyovers replacing junctions, and East Croydon station rebuilt with two extra platforms and better facilities for passengers. For a copy of the Network Rail Press Release click here
The Rail Delivery Group (made up of Train Operating Companies) along with the rail passenger organisation, Transport Focus are asking for public comments on how to restructure and simplify train fares. The consultation is open and runs until 10 September 2018. I think it is very important that everybody who uses the railway whether regularly or occasionally makes their comments.
This is the first major review of how train fares are structured and how train fares can be purchased since the early 1990s. That’s before the Internet became widely used and before contactless payments were invented. The rail fare system is still based on a clunky magnetic ticketing system which is very difficult to modify and change.
Recommendations will be made to the government in the autumn following the consultation which could bring about a much fairer, more equitable and easier fare system. However the computer experts and ticket administrators sitting in their offices don’t necessarily have all the best ideas so this is our opportunity to tell them what we want. Please make your comments:
This consultation is not about the quality of service or lack of it, getting rid of GTR in the southern railway network, overcrowding or resolving the chaotic way in which the rail companies introduced timetable changes. Yes, all these things need to be dealt with but I think it is really important to take advantage of making suggestions to improve the rail ticket system. Please do tell them what you think by clicking on the above link.
Today I was interviewed by BBC Radio Sussex where I commented on the rail timetable changes. I said that GTR had not paid attention to the detail of which services would be affected in the Lewes area in their efforts to produce more trains on the Brighton mainline. Stations like Plumpton, Lewes and Berwick are suffering with less train services than before. You can listen to my broadcast by clicking below:
The new Southern Rail timetable which comes into force on 20 May sees extra trains, new carriages, new connections and other welcome improvements to train services for commuters. The good news seems to be spread right across the country – except in Lewes, which loses out under the new timetable.
Vic Ient, Lib Dem District Councillor and transport spokesperson said: “It seems the rail network is to see big improvements all over the place except for rail travellers in the Lewes constituency. Here, far from improvements, we are going backwards.
“The shortened journey times from Lewes to London, down to 61 minutes in the off-peak, which Norman Baker secured, have been reversed, with journeys now lengthened to 70 minutes. And the Ashford service, which Southern have long wanted to cut but which Norman fought successfully to keep, has been chopped, now he is no longer there to stop them.
Sarah Osborne, Lib Dem Group Leader on the District Council said:
“It is clear that the Tories, including our Councillors and MP Maria Caulfield have been asleep on the job. While in other areas, local representatives have been successfully fighting for their patch, here they have let this series of cuts go through. This is another sign of how the Conservatives are not listening to the needs of the people of Lewes.”
From 20 May the town suffers the following:
* The ending of through services to Ashford International
* The halving of trains to and from London Bridge
* Lengthened journey times
* Connections between Glynde and Berwick severely cut
* Reduced weekday services to other neighbouring villages including Plumpton
* No end to the splitting of trains at Haywards Heath, although splitting has been much reduced elsewhere
Strike days continue despite the fact that the RMT has agreed to let its members sign up to become On-Board Supervisors as opposed to continuing their role as Guards. Strikes will continue until 8 December but there seems no end to the dispute.
So, the misery for commuters continues! I hope everyone in our local area will pressurise both parties to end the strikes. For my part, back in July, I successfully got the Lewes District Council to support the Mayor of London’s proposal that the Southern franchise should be operated by Transport for London. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, chose to ignore this plea by our Council which was also supported by Wealden and Eastbourne councils. At the September meeting of the Lewes District Council’s Scrutiny Committee I proposed a motion, which was passed, inviting both the Department for Transport and Govia/GTR to come to Lewes and explain to the committee how they propose to get services back to normal. Govia/GTR have agreed to a meeting which will take place on 10 November 2016. Click here for more info
More recently the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee issued a report cited the “woeful” experience of Southern passengers, who have faced months of industrial action and staff shortages. The committee urged Transport Ministers to “get a grip” on monitoring rail franchise agreements amongst other things. The committee have an inquiry underway titled ‘Improving the rail passenger experience.’ Click here to see their report
Pressure continues from other quarters: A group of commuters have raised more than £24,000 to launch legal action against the Department for Transport. For more information click here
Transport focus by Cllr Vic Ient:
In March 2016 at I attended Amber Rudd’s Transport Summit Hastings – this was before the current dispute started. This was a rather glossy event papering over the cracks of all of the rail problems we have in the south-east. Speakers included many of the great and good of the rail and bus industry in the south-east including Charles Horton the CEO of GTR. For more information on this event click here
Ever since I was a councillor on Kent County Council in the 1970s I have been interested in improving our transport solutions in the UK. I am an active supporter of the Campaign for Better Transport (http://bettertransport.org.uk/ ). I have researched the 2002 South Coast Corridor Multi Modal Study and have tried to get the government to implement this instead of just building roads. In 2016 I attended the Transport Summit in Hastings. Early in 2016 I attended the Department for Transport’s Cycling and Walking Strategy workshop in London. As a member of the South Downs Society I working with my colleagues to reviewing the current government proposals for an A27 road only solution along the south coast between Polgate and Chichester. I also follow Railfuture’s campaign (http://www.railfuture.org.uk/ ) for better rail solutions in the south-east especially restoring the rail link between Uckfield and Lewes.