Kent Messenger column - 05-02-16 – Southeastern railways

Southeastern have been getting a bit of stick from Kent MPs again recently, even when there's no snow to blame. But how much rail commuter woe is actually their fault?

Dirty trains, smelly toilets, lack of information, these all are within the control of the operator and for the prices we pay we should expect better. But it is lack of seating capacity, delay and cancellation that are the real bugbears for most of us and this is often beyond the control of the franchisee.

According to the trains Minister in a commons debate last week, 60% of service failures relate to Network Rail's infrastructure and just 25% are directly apportioned to Southeastern. The problem is that we commuters often don't get to find out the reasons behind service failings at the time of the issue arising, and then automatically blame the operator. That's a communications issue which Southeastern must address if they are ever to improve public perception.

Disruption can arise for so many reasons, e.g. lack of investment in track dating back to the 1930's, the knock-on effects of the mammoth London Bridge station re-development, the awful fact that on average there is a suicide every 30 hours on our national rail network.

Rail passenger numbers have also doubled since privatisation and Southeastern have seen a 30% increase since taking over their franchise. So, despite having added 95,000 more seats in that time, most of the new capacity has been filled.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel (excuse the pun). Negotiations for additional rolling stock are presently being concluded, phase one of London Bridge will open in August this year with the remainder completing in 2018, and on communication, I understand that Southeastern has made a considerable investment in better real-time information systems.

Together with my Kent MP colleagues we will continue holding Southeastern and Network Rail to account and press for noticeable service improvements in the coming months.

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Helen's weekly column is published every Friday in the Kent Messenger.  The content shown here may differ slightly from the press version.


Helen Grant MP signs Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment


This week Helen Grant, MP for Maidstone & The Weald signed the Holocaust Educational Trust's Book of Commitment. In doing so she has pledged her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and to honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust, as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people.

Wednesday 27th January will mark the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

After signing the Book of Commitment, Helen Grant MP commented: "Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – and is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and make sure they are not forgotten. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of my community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance."

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "We are proud that Helen is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. As we mark the 71st anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camps, it is vitally important that we both continue to remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.


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HELEN GRANT MP

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