Government forced to respond to commuter protest petition

A petition calling for Southeastern to be stripped of its rail franchise has been signed by thousands of angry commuters, including many residents from Tunbridge Wells.

More than 12,000 people have so far added their names in protest at a series of train delays and cancellations over the past few months which have been branded as being ‘unacceptable’.

The number of those expressing their dismay at rail services between Hastings and London has now surpassed the mark required for an official government response.

According to Southeastern, the latest issues with service punctuality, which follow complaints of disruption to the network’s lines since before the New Year, were attributed to icy rail conditions.

As a result, commuters are now potentially in line for compensation under a recently-introduced scheme designed to address journey delays of more than 30 minutes.

One of the worst incidents this month came with problems on the Hastings line last week, with rail travel replaced by buses due to a land slippage causing delays in the Wadhurst area.

This came on top of problems with rail signalling between Hastings and Tonbridge as commuters were hit with immediate travel woes on their first week back from Christmas holidays.

Southeastern came in for further criticism online following further delays to services operating in the region being cancelled because of sunlight allegedly affecting its drivers.

The situation prompted many to take to social media to vent their frustration, with one Twitter user creating a spoof account parodying rail services. Its latest entry read: “The next train from Tunbridge Wells to London Bridge is leaving shortly from platform 3. Ha Ha Ha.”

Among numerous comments directed at railway services, commuter Alan Bullion said: “Happy New Year to all commuters. Fares rise yet again while service slumps to a bigger low for Tunbridge Wells line passengers.”

Fellow commuter Skye Robertson said: “What is going on with the trains this week? 4/5 of the trains I’ve taken from Tunbridge Wells to London have been delayed.”

Rail passenger David Ringer Tweeted: “South East Railway. What a Joke. Today is the second time this week this ‘service’ has been cancelled at Tunbridge Wells.”

Commuter Paul Strover added: “Delayed for 6th time this week by South East Railway - almost a record. Sat at Tunbridge Wells on train delayed half hour now awaiting a new driver.”

Southeastern issued a statement apologising for delays. However, despite a request from the Times to establish how many services had been cancelled so far this year between Tunbridge Wells and its London routes, the company was unable to confirm a total.

In a statement on the landslide incident, Southeastern said: “A landslide happened between Stonegate and Wadhurst causing delays on the line between Tunbridge Wells and Hastings. Replacement bus services were available while Network Rail engineers fixed the problem.

“Cold overnight weather conditions also led to ice forming on our track at Wadhurst Tunnel and affecting the third rail.

“We apologise to passengers for the inconvenience this caused and would like to remind our customers that if their journey was delayed by 30 minutes or more they can claim compensation under the Delay Repay scheme.”

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