After years of inadequate investment we have recently delivered billions to our local rail services. On an historic track lay-out (the most congested in Europe) and with record numbers of passengers, investment is critical to deliver a resilient service in which isolated problems do not ripple across the entire network. “Railplan 2020” promised to deliver greater reliability as well as better services and more London “through trains”.
I have heard significant support for the new timetable as well as criticism but there is universal anger at the appalling way it has been introduced. While I did not expect the largest ever timetable change to pass off without problems, right up to implementation those responsible were confident it would work: it then transpires there were insufficient drivers trained on the right routes and that therefore many new services simply couldn’t be run.
I welcome the independent enquiry, which will examine what went wrong including investigating GTR, Network Rail, and the Transport Department itself. Additional compensation should also be paid to those who have suffered as a result of this failure.
In the meantime the new services will be removed – meaning commuters will at least know what trains will operate - before gradually being reintroduced.
In the Commons and in meetings with the Transport Secretary and GTR I am demanding concrete steps and for resolution.
Airport Expansion has also reached the Commons this week. The UK aviation sector is one of the largest in the world, contributing £22bn to the economy and servicing 285m passengers. Gatwick has a proud role in an industry which must expand to meet demand and secure our connectivity with markets which are critical to global growth. I am pleased that after a decade of delay we have a firm Government commitment to expansion at Heathrow. Heathrow’s economic case (with freight included), existing infrastructure and connectivity made it the right choice, in the national interest, for expansion. It is though also a relief that our congested train lines and roads and existing demand for housing and public services should not be further stretched by a massive expansion in local journeys and population resulting from the construction of an additional runway locally.
Photo caption: On a recent visit to Catkins Nursury in Horsham who were celebrating their first Ofsted Report - it rated them “Outstanding”.