The Shadow Rail Minister spoke up for the South East’s commuters in parliament today and highlighted a number of serious local issues that Labour’s General Election candidates are campaigning on.
Lilian Greenwood raised the cases of commuters in Hastings and Rye - whose journeys are being disrupted by landslips - threats to the future of high speed services in Deal, and also asked for assurances about the rail franchises in Milton Keynes.
The MP also praised the three candidates, Sarah Owen, Andrew Pakes and Clair Hawkins, for their campaigning work so far on rail issues.
Commuter Chaos - Hastings & Rye
Labour’s Sarah Owen has been working to highlight the problems facing commuters in Hastings and Rye who are using rail replacement services after a landslip on the line.
The MP raised the matter during the debate, saying:
Landslips are causing misery for commuters in Hastings, as the line to Tonbridge has also faced closures.
“The Minister should explain what assessment Network Rail has made of the stability of trackside banks along this route, and whether more maintenance work should have been done to secure them.
“The operator has advised passengers to make use of its ‘delay repay’ scheme, but Sarah Owen, Labour’s candidate for Hastings and Rye, has been contacted by passengers who have not received a prompt reply when they contacted the company.”
HS1 Threat – Deal
In Deal, Labour’s General Election candidate, Clair Hawkins has been working on a long-running campaign with the transport team to protect high speed rail services.
Speaking about the issue Lilian said:
These train have created commuter routes that previously would not have been feasible for many travellers, including the High Speed services from Deal, and I would like to pay tribute to the local campaigners, including Labour’s Parliamentary candidate Clair Hawkins, who have put real pressure on the operator and the Department for Transport to secure those services.”
Assurances Needed - Milton Keynes
Andrew Pakes, the Milton Keynes South candidate, has been campaigning to get a fairer deal for commuters on rail fares and services.
Taxpayers had to pay out at least £55 million when the Government was forced to abandon the competition to retender the West Coast route in 2012.
Lilian told parliament:
Milton Keynes is a rapidly growing town that relies on its strong rail links to London. The collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise competition – which has cost the taxpayer at least £55 million – has led to uncertainty over future services. The franchising debacle has put orders on hold, hurting the supply chain and threatening jobs and skills, including at the Railcare maintenance company in Wolverton.
“Commuters from Milton Keynes Central to London have seen the cost of their season tickets increase by £940. They are now paying 25% more than they did four years ago, well above the average increase of 20% in season ticket prices. They are paying the cost of the Government’s failure to impose a strict cap on rail fare rises, as Labour has called for.
“The two main operators which serve Milton Keynes – Virgin West Coast, and London Midland – have both been offered franchise extensions until the middle of 2017. Is the Minister able to offer local commuters a reassurance that the Department is planning to at least maintain current service frequencies when it re-lets the franchise, and will train operators be able to vary the current definition of peak time, which could see some commuters paying more?"