SHRIMP (St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme) will be watching closely now that Southeastern has received its Direct Award’contract extension to run Hastings to Charing Cross/Cannon Street services for another four years.
The award in itself comes as no surprise; there were no other bidders in contention, the only other option being to return the franchise to a wholly Government-owned operation.
Rail Minister Claire Perry described this as a ‘fresh start’ for Southeastern, but will it result in a better deal for passengers?
For too long, Southeastern performance figures have been merged into one franchise operation figure, wherein the above-average performance of HS1 services through East Kent (new infrastructure, modern rolling stock, lighter service frequency) have masked the poorer performance of other lines, possibly allowing Southeastern to increase fares when it should have been offering refunds due to under-performance.
SHRIMP is pleased to note that this irregularity, and the challenge to rectify it for greater transparency, is among several major initiatives currently being championed by Passenger Focus.
SHRIMP has asked Amber Rudd MP to obtain clarification of Southeastern’s requirements on this within its new contract and has received verification that this request will be taken forward with the Minister.
For continuity SHRIMP gives a cautious welcome to the franchise extension. But this must be seen by Southeastern – and indeed by the Department for Transport (DfT) – as their last chance to put things right. Southeastern has a new management team with good credentials. It is time for them to get to work.
St Leonards and Hastings Rail Improvement Programme
East Sussex Rail Alliance