In the last few weeks commuters have been facing delays, cancellations and overcrowding on trains running through Lewisham and across south London.

This occurs with depressing frequency and constituents tell me it can more than double their journey times or mean they simply cannot travel at all.

In January I joined local activists at stations across Lewisham East to demand better rail services.

Passengers deserve so much better, yet what we see is a Government which continues to drag its feet.

In November Ministers revealed that the award of the South Eastern franchise, which serves crucial regional hubs and busy suburban stations around south London, was being delayed until the new year.

This is the third time this decision has been delayed and it is preventing long overdue improvements to the service that will benefit passengers.

Stations and trains need upgrading and a proper delay-repay system must be introduced. This critical work is contingent on the award of the new franchise and these continued delays are preventing future planning and investment.

Punctuality is at a 13-year low and, with commuters facing average fare rises of 3.1%, we cannot wait any longer.

After further delays in December, I wrote to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to demand clarity on the timetable for the award of the new franchise. The response I received did not commit to a timeframe.

It remains clear that the current rail system provides no oversight or accountability and is not fit for purpose. We urgently need a fundamental re-assessment of the way our rail network operates.

Mr Grayling’s recent efforts to blame unions for fare hikes are a cynical attempt to shift responsibility to those working hard to keep our services running. It offers no comfort to commuters.

In communities across London, Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan continues to deliver on transport. Passengers are feeling the benefit of practical improvements like frozen fares, a 65% reduction in tube strike days and the introduction of the Night Tube and Overground.

The Department of Transport is currently undertaking what it calls a ‘root and branch’ review of the rail system which promises to be ‘bold’ and ‘innovative’.

While this has already ruled out total renationalisation, I am urging Chris Grayling to match deeds with words and consider allowing Transport for London to control more of our struggling mainline services.

Perhaps then we might stand a better chance of completing our journeys and getting to work on time!


This article originally appeared in the Friday February 15 edition of the South London Press

Janet with local activists at Hither Green railway station
Janet with local activists at Hither Green railway station
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