Almost every day following the introduction of the new Thameslink Railway timetable people in Camberwell and Peckham have contacted me exasperated telling that the delays and cancellations have caused total upheaval in their lives. They’ve paid for their season tickets but they’ve been late for work, missed hospital appointments, been late to collect their children from school and suffered misery on their daily travel. And the overcrowding on the platforms and in the trains is dangerous.
And people’s frustration has only been worsened by mishandling by Govia Thameslink Railway.
Though the new timetable fiasco has definitely exacerbated the problems, anyone who lives in Camberwell & Peckham will know that problems caused by Southern and Thameslink started well before this and trains have been cancelled, late or dangerously overcrowded from Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye and Nunhead every week for the best part of 3 years. The stations are now bursting - the number of passengers has doubled in the last 5 years - and people are at their wits end.
For example, before the May timetable change there were 3 direct trains from Nunhead into Farringdon every hour. Now there is just one an hour, which does not even come at the same time from week to week. “It’s impossible to plan my journey to work” one man told me.
The Government admits the service is ‘wholly unsatisfactory’ but they need to get a grip on the situation and ensure there is some level of accountability of train operators. I am demanding they demonstrate some urgency in tackling this matter and, together with many other MPs, I am taking action to push them on this:
*I have scheduled a meeting with the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson MP, to protest delays and demand an urgent response.
*I have written to the new CEO of Govia Thameslink Railway to ask what they are doing to fix this rail disruption as soon as possible and compensate passengers.
*I am campaigning with Helen Hayes MP, SE5 Forum and Southwark Council to re-open Camberwell Rail Station which lies on the Thameslink Line. This would alleviate some of the pressure at neighbouring stations.
*I’ve met Network Rail to ask what steps they are taking to keep people safe on platforms. I welcome their commitment that both Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye stations are being prioritised in the top 10 stations for redevelopment. I am demanding the Government now put in the money to back this up.
Whilst the delays and disruption to people’s lives are of course totally unacceptable, even more important is that this has now become a matter of public safety. People need answers about how the situation was allowed to get to this point, what the Government is doing now to sort it and what plans they have longer term to end the issues with this struggling franchise and ensure passengers get value for money from the service they pay for and need to be able to rely on.