Train bosses have pledged to hire more staff and fix faulty signals as part of an action plan to improve services on the Brighton mainline.
The management of Network Rail, Southern and Thameslink today met with local MPs and rail minister Claire Perry to discuss how the failing services could be improved.
Last week, a passenger survey revealed Southern and Thameslink are two of the UK’s most unpopular operators – and the Thameslink South service was rated the UK’s worst.
During the meeting, rail bosses acknowledged that passengers’ “patience was wearing thin”, and pledged to improve services by introducing a new action plan, which includes recruiting more drivers, replacing older trains, upgrading infrastructure at 38 key junctions, and better communications.
But Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas while the meeting was a “solid stp forward”, more action was needed.
She said: “Today, Network Rail and the rail companies were asked to explain themselves – it’s crucial they’re held to account.
“We’ve taken a solid step forward, but we need to see much greater action taken to improve the situation, and I’ll be following it up very closely.”
She welcomed the extension of enhanced compensation, but said the whole system of passenger refunds needed an overhaul to make it simpler and extend it to people subject to shorter but repeated delays.
A 2013 Passenger Focus survey showed only 12% of eligible passengers claim refunds.
Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby also attended. He said: “The service in recent months and weeks has been completely unacceptable, and I made sure I made the rail companies very aware of my constituent’s feelings during the meeting.
“Their plans for improvement show that the rail companies are determined to make improvements, and I hope that the action they are taking will begin to have a direct impact on reliability as soon as possible.
“I am particularly pleased to see that there will be additional night-time infrastructure maintenance, which should go a long way to seeing faster repairs and improvements.”
The action plan was split into short term (to mid-2015), medium term (to December 2015) and long term (December 2018) improvements.
The short term proposals focus primarily on resolving issues relating to London Bridge, including investing in the London Bridge diversion route, changing timetables at the station, and bringing in more staff to help passengers and dispatch trains. There will also be work done in the short term to renew points in Haywards Heath, something that should have a positive impact on all those using the Brighton Main Line.
In the medium term the rail companies will be rolling out more new trains, helping with reliability and reducing maintenance times.
By December 2015 Thameslink and Southern also aim to have 51 newly qualified drivers so that driver shortages can cease to cause disruptions to services, as well as introducing new maintenance regimes and innovative mobile maintenance trains.
Finally, in the long term, there are plans for more new train stock, the completion of the redevelopment of London Bridge, and improved drainage on the lines, among other plans.
Earlier today, Caroline Lucas invited passengers to submit questions for the meeting using the hashtag #railsummit on Twitter – this is what they had to say: