Pevensey MP, Huw Merriman, has welcomed the findings of an independent report delivered on the performance and future of Southern Rail.
The report, produced by Chris Gibb, a rail expert with decades of industry experience, was commissioned by the Government with a mandate to pinpoint reasons for performance failure and recommend measures to improve the service.
The report reflected that Southern 'is simultaneously running at absolute capacity at peak times and undergoing a period of dramatic and traumatic change.' It concludes that the rail unions, supported by their members, 'are the primary cause for the system integrity to fail' and 'their action is undermining the system'. As the report makes clear 'The fact that nobody is being made redundant or losing pay against their wishes, that there will be more GTR trains operating with two people on board, and that safe Driver Only Operation is already extensive in GTR, the UK and Europe, just serve to make this dispute more difficult to comprehend, especially for the passengers.'
In addition to calling for a better approach from the rail unions, the report recommends moving some of the coastal network over to the Southeastern franchise, cutting the number of off-peak services to prepare for on-peak demand, electrifying more lines, building more depots further from London and handing control of Gatwick station to the airport operators. The report concludes that changing operator, at the same time as making these radical changes, could make the performance worse.
Huw said, “This report makes some radical and bold, but achievable, recommendations which could make a huge improvement to performance. It requires everyone to pull together. Performance had increased from 62%, at the height of the strikes, to a recent strike-free high of 85%. The new overtime ban from the drivers’ union, ASLEF, is therefore a fresh blow for passengers and takes us in the wrong direction to the report's recommendations.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Merriman asked for time in Parliament to debate and discuss the measures before Ministers. In response, the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, pledged to write to the Department of Transport to urge a full review of the report and, if possible, find time for a Parliamentary debate on its recommendations.