Rail Fares Set to Increase Again

Rail Fares Set to Increase Again

The news this week that rail users are going to see yet another fare hike is extremely unwelcome. As I have said many times, we already pay some of the highest fares in Europe to use appallingly unreliable, overcrowded trains – and regular travellers will know that we’ve had another summer of cancellations and disruption. (Network Rail have responded to me following the recent heatwave disruption.)

Our rail services under the Tories are a disgrace and Bedford has been particularly badly affected. People are being driven away from sustainable transport and onto already congested roads. Successive rail ministers have failed to hold train operating companies and Network Rail to account for their failings – and nobody stays in the job for long, given the number of rail ministers over the previous two years.

Railways should be owned by the people and run for the people, not for profit – they must be brought back into public ownership.

 

Network Rail Response to Heatwave Disruption

Network Rail Response to Heatwave Disruption

I have received the following response from Rob McIntosh, Managing Director, Eastern, Network Rail, to my letter asking what plans Network Rail are putting in place to prevent the level of disruption we saw recently as a result of the hot weather:

“Initially I want to acknowledge the understandable concerns which you’ve expressed about the impact of climate change and how increasing extremes of weather will affect our railways. This is something which it is extremely important that we plan adequately for and so I welcome the opportunity to provide more information about the work my team has done and will be doing in the future on this.

“In addition to the interventions outlined in my update from 30 July to proactively put in place a temporary speed restriction between Leicester and London St Pancras and reactively undertake repairs to damaged overhead line equipment at Belsize Tunnel, we prepare for and manage hot weather by utilising a number of other methods.

“The design and condition of the track is one of the key aspects of this. I can confirm that there are no sections of jointed track on the passenger route between Sheffield and London St Pancras. This means that there are significantly fewer instances of the tracks buckling in very high temperatures due to them expanding.

“Rail is also painted white at some vulnerable locations, such as at Trent South Junction in Leicestershire, where this improves asset reliability and prevents failures caused by the steel expanding. Our use of this intervention on the Midland Main Line is fairly limited though because track inspections are predominantly carried out by our Plain Line Pattern Recognition Train, which makes use of high-density cameras and lasers and so can be impeded when rail is white due to the reflective glare which is caused.

“In terms of our activity whilst the hot weather is happening, my Track Maintenance Engineers use remote monitoring temperature probes, located at critical locations across the Midland Main Line, to provide the route with up-to-date temperature readings. This allowed the targeted deployment of inspection teams to sites along the route during the event last month, after it recorded a rail temperature in London of 54 degrees, in Bedford and Kettering of 56, and in Leicester of 53. These are amongst the highest we can remember. The approach we follow ensures sites are monitored and speed restrictions are imposed which balanced safety against trying to keep passengers moving.

“Our rail on the Midland Main Line is stress-tested to the high standard of the industry, and this meant that once some speed restrictions were put in place we were able to manage the impact of the hot weather on the track. On the London North Eastern and East Midlands Route we had around 350 members of my team deployed to watch the tracks after passing trains to make sure there was no track movement taking place. In addition we also used extra response teams to manage weather-related infrastructure failures.

“I do appreciate though that this will be of little comfort to Mr Yasin’s constituents who were so severely affected, especially by the overhead line failure near West Hampstead, and again want to provide an assurance that this is something we will learn the lessons from. If you require any further information about specific aspects of our response which aren’t contained above or in my update from 30 July and which the review will be looking at then of course that will something we will be happy to provide.

“I hope that this is a helpful summary of the broad range of interventions we employed last month to try to keep passengers moving, but please do accept my apologies for the impact the disruption had for passengers in Bedford.”

Thameslink Compensation Scheme – Phase 2

Thameslink Compensation Scheme – Phase 2

I received notification this week that Phase 2 of Thameslink’s compensation scheme is now open for passengers most severely impacted by the introduction of the May 2018 timetable.

Eligible season ticket holders can now make an online claim until Friday 30th November. Eligible customers are those that hold between 1 and 4 weeks’ worth of season tickets or a minimum of 3 days’ return daily tickets in any one week (Mon to Sun), between the 20th May and the 28th July 2018 on a qualifying route. Eligible customers can claim compensation for a period of between 1 to 4 weeks’ worth of fares.

I am told GTR are setting up the new systems and staff training required to deliver phase 3, which will involve online claims becoming available to eligible non-season ticket holders by the 30th November, with closing dates are to be confirmed.

Customers are being encouraged to hold onto any tickets, receipts, Oyster PAYG or contactless journey history or other proof of travel.

Follow this link for full details, including Frequently Asked Questions. 

East Midlands – Proposed Timetable Changes

Towards the end of last Year, Stagecoach delivered a nasty surprise to Bedford’s rail users with proposals to introduce detrimental timetable changes from May 2018, removing East Midlands peak services travelling South, and into Bedford from the North.

These proposals will leave rail users in Bedford without an East Midlands peak time service for at least two years. Constituents travelling in from the North will have to make do with a rail replacement bus service for the duration of this suspension of peak time services. These changes would be completely unacceptable to me and to my constituents if implemented.

For so many of the people who have contacted me, the shorter journey times on EMT, and vastly better facilities than those offered by Thameslink, are what makes balancing a daily commute with family life and other commitments possible. For those who travel in from the North each day – a not inconsiderable number, these timetable changes will probably make it impossible for them to use Public Transport – maybe even to maintain their jobs. Furthermore, the Department for Transport’s proposal to introduce yet more polluting traffic onto Bedford’s already congested road network  in peak hours are extremely unwelcome.

I am astonished that the Department for Transport would consider such detrimental changes only 3 months from having concluded a public consultation into the East Midlands Franchise  – the responses to which would have told the Government very clearly how important these fast trains running both North and South are to the people of Bedford & Kempston.  No doubt the Department for Transport will also have heard many similar representations from those living in the North East Beds and Luton constituencies. I am saddened that the views of my constituents, all of which participated in the East Midlands Franchise consultation in good faith, have been so completely ignored when these latest decisions were taken.

You can read the text of the recent Westminster Hall debate on Rail in Bedfordshire here :

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-01-23/debates/273DE3CE-218E-4C12-BE5E-E64EE17AFF2D/RailServices(Bedfordshire)

The fight continues.  Last week I met with Rail Minister Jo Johnson, along with representatives of the Bedford Commuters Association and Save our Trains campaign , and will continue to press for this decision to be reversed. Additionally I have asked for the existing Thameslink Rolling stock to be retro-fitted with tables, wifi and plug sockets, and have requested that consideration to be given to the needs of commuters travelling with Full-Sized bikes, who will not be able to use their bikes on Thameslink trains in the peak.