Rail operator must be held to account in franchise process

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Re-tendering for the Southeastern franchise begins in November and should be used as an opportunity to hold the current rail operator to account.

That’s the message from MP Greg Clark, who has asked for a meeting with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. The request follows another spate of delays and disruptions for commuters.

Mr Clark accepts that signal failures can happen – ‘though after a major upgrade they are remarkably frequent’.

He went on to write: “But the poor response in terms of information, staff availability and general management of the disruption has caused real frustration.”

Mr Clark also said the franchise re-tendering should be used to ‘make it clear’ that the rail operator’s record will play a major part in deciding the outcome. He told Mr Grayling about the ‘dire’ service provided by Southeastern, which he describes as a ‘daily diet’ of ‘overcrowding, cancellations, poor – and sometimes non-existent – communications with passengers’. The reopening of London Bridge platforms had led to worse overcrowding and the new timetable had not provided the expected relief, he added.

A Southeastern spokesman admitted there were times when passengers experienced ‘frustration’ with the service, but said the operator was ‘committed’ to bringing about improvements.

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