Steve Brine MP

for Winchester & Chandler's Ford

07 MAR 2018

Future capacity on agenda with Network Rail

Steve Brine met up with senior officials from Network Rail on Wednesday 7th March, to discuss the future of our rail service and examine current issues facing local commuters.

Stewart Firth, the Director of Route Investment for the Wessex route, explained how Network Rail is currently undergoing a process of route management reform, and are being given more direct control over specific routes. As such, he said, the Office of Rail and Road will scrutinise Network Rail's specific route management directly, rather than at a corporate level.

Mr Brine was also keen to address the poor start for the SWR franchise, and Mr Firth explained that although the rolling stock, routes, timetable and staff are the same as under the previous SWT franchise, the entire franchise board has completely changed. He said that this has had an effect on performance, paired with the completely different targets and incentives that have come into force as part of their franchise agreement.

Steve Brine said: "I have been clear, publically and privately, that I have been disappointed with the start of the SWR franchise, and while excuses mean little to my constituents, I appreciated the update.

"In addition, Network Rail highlighted the amount of leverage that the Trade Unions are invoking on SWR. The strikes that have inconvenienced (to say the very least) commuters from Winchester & Chandler's Ford are inexcusable, and there is evidence of a higher rate of staff absence and late arrivals, further attributing to the performance of the franchise."

Mr Firth explained how the proportion of minute delays has increased since SWR took over the franchise, but explained that most of this can be attributed to the planned NR upgrades made to the former International platforms at London Waterloo and the extension of platforms over summer 2017 and into September-October, which Mr Brine agreed had been completely necessary as we ensure our rail service is fit for the future.

There was also a discussion about incidents on the railway, which lead to inevitable delays, and Steve Brine was pleased to hear that these tragedies have fallen, and continue to do so. He also said he was pleased that NR are establishing more incident management teams across the UK to cope with these incidents.

Steve continued: "Moving forward, I am excited by the reopening of the international terminal at London Waterloo, as well as the lengthening of additional platforms, which local commuters will know all too well is badly needed to address the long-running capacity problems we have faced.

"In addition, a planned flyover at Woking will create space for two more peak trains into Waterloo each morning, and new, in-cab signalling technology will enable trains to travel within one hundred feet of each other, creating four more peak trains, which is again encouraging. And as we look further forward, Crossrail 2, creating a tunnel from Wimbledon to central London, could free up substantial space for more peak trains into 2025-30.

"I am looking forward to visiting the Network Rail control centre at Basingstoke in due course, and will be speaking personally to the Transport Secretary about the need for this flyover at Woking to add capacity.

"I am also pleased that Network Rail will be represented at my ASK SWR event, which will be taking place in Winchester later this spring."

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