Michael Fallon has expressed his disappointment at the renewal of Southeastern’s rail franchise. Under contract terms inherited from the previous Labour Government, the Rail Minister Theresa Villiers is legally obliged to offer an additional two years to Southeastern, despite the recent deterioration in performance levels. The franchise will now continue to 31st March 2014.
The news follows assiduous campaigning from Kent MPs. In December Southeastern Boss Charles Horton was grilled by Members to explain the chaotic services during the winter snow. Rail Minister Theresa Villiers was also questioned by MPs in Parliament in February. Michael Fallon said:
“This is frustrating. These terms, agreed by the last Labour Government, have rewarded failure on the back of a sizeable public subsidy. The original performance level targets were wholly inadequate. I am pleased the compensation scheme is being reviewed, but this should not distract from the fact that, based on their recent record, Southeastern do not deserve to keep their contract.
I shall continue to maintain pressure on Southeastern for lower fares and better services for my constituents.”
Meeting with Network Rail
Michael has now met Network Rail chiefs together with other Kent MPs to discuss the operator’s handling of the December snow.
Network Rail is responsible for clearing snow and ice off railway lines, and has come under intense criticism for inadequate preparation for the snow.
Michael said: “Southeastern’s poor performance has been scrutinised closely and rightly so, but Network Rail too has a lot to answer for. Although staff clearing the snow and ice were working under difficult conditions, questions need to be answered about Network Rail’s inadequate equipment, poor communication with Southeastern and slow response time.
We’ve had enough of the blame-game. Network Rail needs to be better organised.”
8th February 2011
Southeastern Franchise & Fare Increases
Michael Fallon and other Kent MPs met Rail Minister Theresa Villiers on Tuesday 1st February to discuss Southeastern’s rail fare increases and the franchise extension policy.
The current franchise contains a provision for the contract to be extended for two years, from March 2012 to March 2014. Any extension is subject to a continuation review, where performance against pre-determined targets is assessed. Under the present contract, if Southeastern pass the review, then they will have the option to accept the two year extension.
Michael said: “I am dissatisfied with Southeastern’s performance. Many constituents continue to complain about paying higher fares for dirty, overcrowded trains that are frequently late. My campaign for decent levels of service will continue regardless of the operator. Specifications in the new franchise must offer better value for money. Despite some statistical sophistry from Southeastern, the huge fare increases this year were evidently not performance-related.”
2nd February 2010
Kent Rail Services Must Get Back on Track
Michael reiterated the need for fundamental changes in the way Kent rail services are provided during a Parliamentary debate on Thursday 19th January.
He insisted that Southeastern must not wriggle out of compensation commitments to Sevenoaks constituents stranded by the December snow. He also called for effective penalties on rail operators who fail to meet punctuality targets, sentiments echoed by other MPs in the chamber. Southeastern currently only consider delayed services in performance assessments; cancelled trains are not taken into account.
In her response, the Minister for Rail Theresa Villiers praised Kent MPs for their ‘assidious’ campaigning for better services, and assured the House she was urging rail operators to re-examine how punctuality figures were assessed.
Michael said afterwards: “The debate underlined just how important it is for Southeastern to get back on track. My constituents want changes, without delay.”
27th January 2011
Southeastern Trains: New Compensation Threshold Needed
Michael has voiced his concern that Southeastern’s latest performance figures are misleading. Southeastern have calculated that 82.4 per cent of trains were on time in 2010, and had therefore reached their 82 per cent punctuality target. Had services been below this figure, season ticket holders would have received compensation.
In December, Southeastern opted to cancel services, rather than running a reduced service and risk failing to meet punctuality targets. The ensuing chaos led to Kent MPs summoning Southeastern boss Charles Horton to Parliament for questioning.
Michael said: “Southeastern’s New Year rail fare rises are amongst the highest in the country. They should be making every effort to make it up to my constituents who were so badly let down in the December snow. A handful of vouchers is not proper compensation. I have written to the Rail Minister Theresa Villiers asking her to review the way in which performance figures are calculated in order that train operators cannot in future wriggle out of compensation.”
11th January 2011