‘Passengers hit on every count’ – MP questions train company’s future

MP Amber Rudd has publicly questioned whether the company that runs trains up to London should have its contract extended.

Ms Rudd was part of a delegation of MPs from the area served by Southeastern who met with rail minister Theresa Villiers this week to outline their concerns.

Rail fare hikes, lack of investment, the chaos caused by the recent snow and reliability were all on the agenda as the group asked the minister to reconsider the two-year extension to the Southeastern franchise due in March.

As the company scraped past its 82 per cent target for trains running on time, Southeastern does qualify for the extension, but Ms Rudd wanted to put across how let down many passengers feel by the service.

She said: “The positive outcome from this meeting is that we now have a group of 12 MPs served by Southeastern who are determined to push for change and I will be standing up for Hastings and will make sure that the performance targets are reviewed and that Southeastern is held to account.”

The 12-strong group asked for an independent review of Southeastern’s performance targets amid fresh doubts over their validity.

It emerged this week that figures for Southeastern included the high speed High Speed One Javelin trains which link Folkestone, Ashford International and London St Pancras.

Their high punctuality rates were a significant boost to the Southeastern figures, despite most commuters not using the Javelin trains.

Cllr Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “As anyone who uses the Hastings to London line knows, you could never accuse it of being high speed.

“Passengers have been hit on every count – over inflation fare increases, no investment and a slow service. That is the daily experience for many people and will deter people using the train.”

Southeastern denied the figures had been massaged and said it was standard practice to include the high speed results in with theirs.