'Terrible start to the year, things must improve' says MP after rail delays in same week a ticket price rise
PUBLISHED: 14:03 04 January 2019 | UPDATED: 01:13 07 January 2019
Delays to train services in the same week that ticket prices have gone up are leaving many commuters frustrated, an MP has said.
Colchester MP Will Quince wrote to Greater Anglia managing director Jamie Burles after a track defect meant many services across Essex were disrupted on Wednesday.
Services were then further suspended after a person was hit by a train in the same area.
It was the first time many were paying increased rail fares, with an average rise of 3.1% on Greater Anglia services from the start of this year.
The cost increase is set by the inflation rate recorded in January.
Many commuters had also seen large sections of rail lines closed over the Christmas and New Year.
Greater Anglia has apologised for the disruption and said it worked with Network Rail to alleviate the problems.
In his letter, Mr Quince acknowledged that Greater Anglia has invested in a new fleet of modern trains which are due to take to the tracks for the first time later this year.
He also acknowledged that Network Rail had secured funding for track improvements.
But he said: “I hope you will appreciate how frustrating it is for rail users on the Great Eastern Main Line to have had the line closed for 10 months days and a much reduced service over Christmas and New Year for essential maintenance and then face delays due to a track fault on their first day back to work and in the week that rail fares have increased.
“I would ask that you work with Network Rail to publish a clear plan of action with a timeline of expected improvements so rail users can see the investment, where it is to be spent, when and the improvement that it will make to their journey.”
In the Tweet where he shared the letter, he added: “Terrible start to the year, things must improve.”
A Greater Anglia spokesman said: “We are sorry some customers were affected by disruption on Wednesday.
“This was caused by a track defect near Ilford and a person hit by a train in the same area. We worked with Network Rail to minimise the disruption and restore a normal service in time for the evening peak period.
“While we do not manage the tracks, signals and overhead lines, we work in partnership with Network Rail to improve the service we provide to passengers.
“Sometimes trains are shorter than normal, either due to train faults or infrastructure problems which lead to trains and traincrew being displaced.
“We are sorry when this happens, but we think it is better to run a shorter train than no train at all.
“We’ve been working hard to reduce the number of shorter trains and we are now seeing an improvement.
“We’re investing £23million to improve the reliability of our existing trains until they are replaced by our brand new trains - which will start to come into service from the middle of the year.
“We are working to introduce Delay Repay 15 and will provide an update in due course.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “I apologise to passengers affected by the delays to services on Wednesday, January 2 following 10 days of important engineering work over the festive period.
“While all our engineering work was successfully completed on time, we recognise that the delays caused by a track defect at Seven Kings caused frustration for a lot of passengers on the first day back after the New Year.
“We know that performance has not been as good as it should be recently, but we are committed to do more to improve the reliability of the railway so that passengers get the service that they expect.”
Witham MP Priti Patel, who is also chairman of the Great Eastern Mainline Taskforce, has also spoken out about the issue - saying the delays in the same week as price rises “will leave a bitter taste for many passengers”.
In a comment earlier in the week, a Greater Anglia spokesman said: “We’re investing £23million to improve the performance of our existing trains, which will help our engineers make them as reliable as possible, until they are replaced by our brand new trains.”