Southern Railway Emergency Timetable

Southern Railway have this week announced that they will be implementing an emergency timetable from Monday 11th July, which will result in the cancellation of 341 services across their network. I have today written to the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, about the entirely unacceptable impacts that the emergency timetable will have on my constituents. Please see the full text of my letter below. 

"Thank you for meeting with me on 22nd June 2016. I was pleased to have the opportunity to raise Southern Railway’s poor performance with you and Southern’s most senior managers, and to discuss the urgent improvements needed to resolve the unacceptably poor service experienced by my constituents on a daily basis. 

I had understood from that meeting that steps were being taken to address Southern’s performance, and that while this may take several weeks to complete, my constituents would begin to see an improvement in the reliability of rail services across Dulwich and West Norwood shortly.

At our meeting, neither you nor Charles Horton, the Chief Executive of Southern, or Dyan Crowther, Southern’s Chief Operating Officer, raised the possibility of the introduction of an emergency timetable which is due to be implemented next week with minimal prior warning and communication. 

The emergency timetable sees the withdrawal of 341 services from the GTR network. The services to be cancelled are heavily concentrated in South London, including the vast majority of the peak hour commuter services running from stations in and very close to my constituency – North Dulwich, East Dulwich, Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill, Gipsy Hill and Crystal Palace as well as the withdrawal of all services to London Bridge from West Norwood and Tulse Hill. 

This is effectively the collapse of commuter rail services in my constituency, and coming on top of more than 18 months of appalling service levels, cancelled trains, short trains and overcrowding as a consequence of the earlier phases of the London Bridge works, it is completely unacceptable.

To add insult to injury I understand from a telephone conversation with Southern this afternoon that although Southern is advertising a replacement bus service, this is not actually the case – the thousands of my constituents who normally travel by train are expected to use already overcrowded existing bus services, or equally crowded train services from other stations, without Southern taking any steps whatsoever to provide their own replacement bus service.

The rationale for the emergency timetable appears to be to enable Southern Railway to run a more reliable service.  This will come as cold comfort to the thousands of my constituents who will be severely impacted by these changes, because the services they rely on will not now be running at all.  It is a shifting of the goalposts which seems entirely aimed at improving Southern Railway's performance statistics rather than improving services for passengers.

It is also entirely unacceptable that such a dramatic change was introduced apparently without any warning, any published assessment of the likely impact, or any consultation with passenger groups, and that no timetable has been set for the restoration of a normal level of service.

As you know, confidence in Southern Railway amongst passengers is already at rock bottom.  The fact that such a dramatic curtailing of the timetable is considered to be an appropriate response to the current crisis and an acceptable level of inconvenience for passengers to bear, demonstrates further that the leadership of Southern Railway does not have the capacity to regain public confidence.

I am therefore calling on you, as a matter of urgency, to remove the franchise from Southern and for the Department of Transport to take over the running of the service directly, while arrangements are put in place to subsequently transfer the services to Transport for London (TfL) once TfL has built up capacity to take on the franchise.

Given the unacceptably disproportionate focus of the cuts to services in South London I must also ask that the emergency timetable is further revised immediately to distribute its impacts more fairly across the network. It is also critical that Southern provides a real replacement bus service, or contributes to additional capacity on existing bus routes, so that the already overcrowded public transport system in South London is not completely overwhelmed as a consequence of the emergency timetable.

I look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency."