Westminster Hall Debate on Rail Services in South East London

Rt Hon Sir David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, secured a Westminster Hall Debate on Rail Services in South East London yesterday (7 March). He was supported in the debate by Parliamentary colleagues Gareth Johnson MP, Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP, Teresa Pearce MP, Clive Efford MP, and Matthew Pennycook MP.

A transcript of the debate can be read at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-03-06/debates/FCBC4F34-9A83-4C48-ACEF-9A6409B2CD5F/RailServicesSouth-EastLondon

Sir David commented on the debate in Politics Home, and a copy of his article is below:

On the one hand, I am delighted to have secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Rail Services in South East London, but on the other it is a great shame there is a such a desperate need to raise the same issues again in Parliament.

My constituency of Bexleyheath and Crayford, and Bexley Borough as a whole, are entirely dependent on Southeastern Rail in order to travel into Central London. We suffer a terrible rail service, with cancellations and delays the norm, and we have no viable alternative due to having no underground services whatsoever.

We have been blighted with signalling issues at Lewisham causing more misery for commuters, with delays and cancellations lasting from the mornings well into the evenings. I recently met with representatives from Network Rail, who confirmed the signalling problems at Lewisham and advised of the works that would be done to go towards rectifying this; however, these are not scheduled until this Easter with further works scheduled to take place over Easter 2020 as well. Rail users deserve better and need action now.

Our trains are constantly delayed, even if it is by a couple of minutes, and to highlight this just 72% of people were satisfied with the punctuality of services in the 2018 Rail Passenger Survey. It is true that many of the delays are the fault of Network Rail, but Southeastern often use this as an excuse for the poor service overall and their inability to act, have any contingency plans in place, or provide simple information to customers on why the train is delayed, is quite frankly appalling.

Many of my constituents have also been incredibly disappointed at the continuing delays in awarding the new franchise for our area.

The proposals in the new franchise agreement give some real positives to look forward to, including making sure the new operator and Network Rail work closer together, improved delay repay, tougher demands on reliability, more frequent services to Charing Cross, and direct services to Abbey Wood from Bexleyheath and Sidcup – which will eventually link to Crossrail. However, no decision has yet been made, and just like the train service we have seen delay after delay. The new franchise needs to be decided urgently by the Department for Transport.

Of course, the delay to Crossrail was a major blow for the capital, but particularly for South East London. The fault of this lies at the feet of the Mayor of London and TfL, who have serious questions to answer as we still don’t have a definitive opening date. Crossrail will undoubtedly transform the services in our area and shall finally provide a viable alternative for rail users. Furthermore, I have always hoped that when the line opens plans could be looked at to extend the service through Bexley to Ebbsfleet. The Crossrail to Ebbsfleet Partnership (C2E) have highlighted the many benefits of an extension, including unlocking 55,000 new homes and 50,000 new jobs across the sub-region. The delays to Crossrail are holding our area back from regeneration and economic growth.

I have had countless meetings, discussions and written communications with the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, to highlight the issues with the rail service across South East London, but we have not yet seen any progress despite continued increases in costs of fares and an increase in frustration of railway users. We need, and deserve, the better rail services in South East London and North-West Kent that our constituents demand.