Eltham MP Clive Efford raised Southeastern’s poor performance in the snow in the House of Commons this morning. Following an urgent question on the country’s preparedness for the harsh weather, he urged transport secretary Philip Hammond to “get a grip” on the situation.
In return, Mr Hammond called the lack of information provided by Southeastern “inexcusable”.
Here’s the fuill exchange, which you can watch here (approx 26 minutes in).
Clive Efford: “The secretary of state has got to get a grip on this situation. For my constituents, Southeastern rail is the main route into London. We’ve had no trains running on the service through Eltham this morning, yet we’ve had people standing on the platforms and the station concourse who don’t know what is going on. What is he doing with the train operating companies to make sure that they are giving up-to-date information to people who might be mistakenly standing on cold platforms waiting for trains that are never going to turn up?”
Philip Hammond: “I agree with the honourable gentleman that the lack of information is inexcusable. The Office of Rail Regulation has said this morning that it will have its inspectors out on the Southeastern and Southern networks looking at the information that is being provided making sure that the operators are meeting their obligations under their franchise contracts. If they’re not, they’ll be dealt with according to the provisions within those franchise contracts.”
The Office of Rail Regulation has said there can be “no excuses” for the lack of information provided to passengers. In a statement released yesterday, chief executive Bill Emery added: “It is absolutely right that, with the great strides that have been made in communication technology in the 21st Century, rail passengers should expect to receive useful and timely information during disruption.” However, it says it will be monitoring information given during disruption between January and March 2011 – there’s nothing there about inspectors being sent out today, as Mr Hammond implied and some reports have claimed.
Southeastern has blamed “a technical fault” with Network Rail systems for being unable to display emergency timetables on station information screens.