At the start of October, I launched this campaign. I started by investigating exactly how Southeastern were able to propose a new timetable without consulting the public.
Due to the pandemic, the Department for Transport agreed to continue to allow train operators to implement demand-led timetables without consulting formally during this period. However, the Government has admitted that Southeastern is the only rail operator continuing to use this exemption.
I acknowledge that the pandemic has placed major challenges on train operators and timetables, however, I am still very concerned about the lack of consultation given to this new timetable that provides major alterations to the current system.
This month, activists across Erith and Thamesmead have been distributing my leaflet calling for a reversal to the planned cuts to Southeastern rail services in December.
Since then, I have repeatedly challenged the Government and Department for Transport, to get to the bottom of how Southeastern were allowed to proceed with service cuts without public consultation.
Responding to written questions I submitted, the Transport Minister finally admitted that the Government gave Southeastern permission, via a written derogation in August this year, to proceed without consultation.
Rail operators are usually required to consult the public before changing their timetables, but we now know that the Conservative government explicitly gave Southeastern permission to ignore these rules.
I wrote a follow-up urgent question to the Department for Transport to find out how many rail operators have requested derogations from the rules this year. Their answer, which missed the deadlines for urgent questions, was just one. Of all the rail operators in the country, Southeastern is the only operator who have sought permission to ignore the rules.
After receiving this response, I asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt MP, to urge her colleagues at the Department for Transport to provide a proper response to my questions and to press for a consultation. She committed to writing to the Transport Minister to pass on my concerns.
I am sure many of you will be very frustrated by this news. I have a meeting with the Rail Minister on 1st December, where I will be pressing him further on the Government’s handling of this mess.
This month, I met with the and CEO and spoke in a debate on cuts in Parliament.
On 1st December, I met with Huw Merriman MP, Transport Minister and Steve White, CEO. I told them that I was unhappy with the new proposed timetable, frustrated by the lack of consultation and the poor communication of the changes, and wanted assurances for the future.
I am happy to see has now published an Equalities Impact Assessment for the changes, but this came far too late. I want to see passengers consulted on any future changes and a strong commitment from and the Department for Transport that we will not see changes without consultation again.
I was grateful to neighbouring MP for Eltham, Clive Efford, for securing a debate in Parliament on the cuts. I spoke in this debate alongside my Labour colleagues and was glad to see the level of cross-party consensus.
I shared stories from Erith and Thamesmead constituents about how the cuts will impact them, whether it is the loss of direct services harming older people, parents of young children, and disabled people who will have to navigate the change at London Bridge, or key workers relying on the loop line to get to work.
I welcomed the Transport Minister’s commitment to a full evaluation of the timetable changes and will press for this to be completed in a timely manner and shared publicly with MPs and service users.
I have been monitoring the roll-out of the new timetable and I am concerned to hear of the delays and overcrowding on Southeastern services and station platforms. I have contacted the Department of Transport and Southeastern to request urgent assurances.
I urge anyone who has experienced delays to submit a claim for delay repay compensation, which you can do on the Southeastern website.
I was very concerned to see the overcrowding plaguing Southeastern services and station platforms, such as at London Bridge. Both Southeastern and the Department for Transport need to urgently get on top of this situation and publish a review of this disaster timetable. If you have experienced delays or overcrowing, please contact me via the form at the bottom of this page to tell me more.
I raised the issues with overcrowding and delays to the Transport Minister. He responded announcing the introduction of additional off-peak services to the Bexleyheath line – which will do nothing to benefit people in Erith and Thamesmead, nor reduce overcrowding during rush hour.
I told him that I was disappointed the Government are using this as a political football, confirming the announcement with Tory MPs without any communication with Labour MPs in South East London. You can watch my contribution below.
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