MP calls for warning to train operator
By Rebecca SheppardAN MP has called on the Government to warn rail operator One it could be given the sack if it does not improve its performance this year.
By Rebecca Sheppard
AN MP has called on the Government to warn rail operator One it could be given the sack if it does not improve its performance this year.
Tim Yeo, Conservative MP for South Suffolk, raised concerns about the region's rail service in the House of Commons yesterday after being inundated with complaints since the new timetable was introduced at the end of last year.
Mr Yeo asked Transport Secretary Alistair Darling whether he was aware that far more commuters were having to stand on trains for much longer than 20 minutes and the reliability of the service was now “scandalously bad” since the timetable changes were introduced.
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He also inquired whether Mr Darling was aware that the Strategic Rail Authority had failed to consult the Manningtree Rail Users' Association in a timely way before the timetable changes.
Mr Yeo, who is the shadow transport secretary, then asked Mr Darling to support his call to the Strategic Rail Authority to reinstate the old timetable immediately and to warn One that if its performance did not improve this year, it may face the sack.
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Speaking after the debate, Mr Yeo said: “This has been a particularly bad issue in my constituency - the worst for several years.
“Mr Darling said he would be happy to look at it if I wrote to him about it, which I will now do. I also await a reply from the Strategic Rail Authority, to whom I wrote after the public meeting in Manningtree.”
Mr Yeo said he received about 10 complaints every day about One, with the main problem being punctuality, followed by the number of people having to stand.
He added it was possible to sack a franchise, citing the case of Connex, which served the South-East and had its franchise terminated, as a precedent.
Jonathan Denby, head of corporate affairs at One, said the timetable had to fairly balance the needs of users along the entire line.
He admitted there were teething problems in the first weeks of the timetable, but added: “Since then the timetable, in terms of performance, has been much better and January was manifestly the best ever recorded for that time of year. We would refute what he is saying in that respect.
“We would acknowledge there have been a few more delays over the past two to three weeks, although it was nothing like we had in the first few weeks of the timetable. It was more disruptive than we would have liked, but not worse than in previous years.”
Mr Denby said passengers from Manningtree would normally be able to get a seat following the reschedule of trains with more carriages last month.
“It is not achievable to reinstate the old timetable. The old timetable has flaws and weaknesses as well and we had complaints about it too,” he added.
“If Mr Yeo wants to make these threats it is something he is at liberty to do, but what we will be doing is supporting our staff, who are doing a very good job, sometimes in difficult circumstances, and continually improving the service.”
A spokesman for the Strategic Rail Authority said it did not want to add anything to Mr Darling's comments.
n Rail services between London and Norwich were disrupted yesterday after a man was killed when he was struck by a train.
The man, believed to be aged in his 50s and from Suffolk, was pronounced dead at the scene following the incident, which happened at Marks Tey railway station at 12.37pm.
Neither the driver nor the passengers on the train, which was travelling to London, were hurt. British Transport Police said the man's death was not being treated as suspicious.
A spokeswoman for train operator One said the line was closed for about two hours in the aftermath of the death.