Strip Southern Rail of its franchise now says Tonbridge MP

Pam Mills

Tonbridge & Malling MP Tom Tugendhat has renewed his call for the operator of Southern Rail to be stripped of its franchise due to what he describes as an ‘unacceptable’ service.

The company introduced an emergency timetable last month which cut 341 trains from its services.

There were fears that the Tonbridge to Redhill line would to be among the axed routes, but it currently remains open on a reduced basis.

Southern’s bitter dispute with the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) over changes to the role of train guards prompted another strike last week exacerbating the situation.

Mr Tugendhat has now written to new Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling repeating his call for the franchise, operated by Govia Thameslink (GTR), to be given to another company. This follows a letter he wrote to former rail minister Claire Perry last month demanding the firm loses the franchise.

In his new letter to the Secretary of State, Mr Tugendhat said: “For a long time, the service on the Uckfield and Tonbridge to Redhill lines have been unreliable, and when they do run on time the trains are often short formations and delayed en route. The current dispute has only exaggerated the problems and made the service even more inconsistent.

Given the magnitude of the issues, I would like to see GTR stripped of the Southern franchise. The service has been unacceptable for too long.”

John Reynolds, Vice-Chairman of Tonbridge Line Commuters, said: “While we are pleased that there appears to be at least a temporary respite, we are disappointed that we are still receiving contradictory information regarding the reliability of the service between Tonbridge and Redhill. It is an important link for connections at Redhill for Gatwick, Croydon, Victoria and the Guildford and Reading Line.

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