Both Paul Holmes and Steve Brine join group monitoring SWR performance
Eastleigh MP Paul Holmes has become Vice-Chair of a new Parliamentary Group that aims to challenge South Western Railway (SWR) to provide a better train service for their constituents.
The group of 15 local MPs also includes Steve Brine, the MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford and is headed by Chris Loder the newly elected MP for West Dorset who until recently was Head of Trains for South Western Railway and has 20 years-experience of working on local rail services at every level including a spell as a train guard.
SWR took on the South Western Franchise – which runs the Eastleigh to London Waterloo service – in August 2017 but the operator has been beset by problems including an ongoing dispute with the RMT union over the withdrawal of train guards. Strikes and infrastructure failures led to a pre-tax loss of £139 million in the year to March 2019.
Although SWR’s contract is due to run until 2024, last week the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that “the franchise is not sustainable in the long term” suggesting that the troubled service could be nationalised.
Paul Holmes told Eastleigh News that SWR could go the same way as LNER whose East Coast service was nationalised by the Government in June 2018.
“I became Vice Chair of this new group to take South Western Railway to task because at the moment they are not providing the service that Eastleigh residents want.
My main concerns are punctuality and reliability and this year South Western Railway only met their timing targets 74% of the time.
This government will act if railway companies are not providing the services they should be. The government will strip those companies of their services. I’m not saying we are there yet with SWR but they have got problems in terms of stock and reliability and we need that service to improve.”
Last week Grant Shapps announced that failing operators Northern Rail will be joining LNER in public ownership.
The nationalisation of the Railways would be welcomed by RMT General Secretary Mick Cash who in recent press release said that struggling rail companies were beyond saving and accused the government of throwing “good public money after bad” by “trying to breathe life into the rotting corpse of privatised rail.”