Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

Southwark News column: Government must take charge of London Bridge rail chaos

The recent problems at London Bridge station have caused mayhem for thousands of passengers travelling between South and Central London. The massive works to upgrade the station as part of the Thameslink project have caused severe overcrowding and extreme delays during rush hour with some passengers having to crawl or jump over ticket barriers to avoid the crush. And people have been left jostling on narrow platforms as they despair about ever getting to or from work and home on time.

Twitter has been seething with protests:

“drivers unaware of destinations – often change mid journey, cancelled trains via Peckham Rye every day, late to work/home EVERY day”

“moving away from Peckham next week as can’t bear the stress of constantly late to work/late home anymore”

“a 7 min trip from queens rd Peckham to london Br takes 20-30 mins every day. Trains constantly delayed and cancelled”

“doing 2 hours unpaid overtime rather than face the train chaos #LondonBridge”

“another day of lon bridge chaos. Pregnant and dealing with delays & canxs. When will this end?”

Together with other South London MP’s, Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan, Jim Dowd, I and London Assembly Member Val Shawcross met Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, to urge him to take direct control of the situation. As Secretary of State he should call this in and take day to day responsibility. Network Rail and the train operators have passed the buck between themselves and they need to be brought in to have their heads banged together. It’s a daily nightmare for passengers - it should be a daily responsibility for the Secretary of State.

And we urged him to sort out the compensation. People have not got the service they've paid for. Many people have had higher costs as they've had to pay for alternative travel or more hours of childcare from being late home. The compensation scheme is complex and inadequate and designed to deter passengers from claiming. If the service is 50% down on what it should have been, then a season ticket holder should automatically get a 50% refund for the lack of service, as well as additional compensation for the stress and extra expense.

The massive upgrading of London Bridge station is a good thing. We will have a great new station in 2018. But passengers shouldn't have to put up with this. Let alone for a further 18 months of chaos while the works continue. People pay for and rightly expect a decent train service. Only when it’s dealt with at the highest level of government will there be any chance of the problems being resolved sooner rather than later.

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