Two hugely important consultations for everyone who uses the railways are taking place at present. Network Rail is discussing the future network configuration in this area, and even more importantly the Department of Transport is consulting on the next franchise holder, when the current South Eastern franchise comes to an end.
Kent MPs had a productive meeting with the Rail Minister Paul Maynard about this, and the short term problems affecting our services such as the shortage of carriages, which can often lead to over-crowding.
On the over-riding issue of reliability, we learned that although the number of individual incidents is falling, the network is running so close to its capacity that every incident tends to cause more serious delays. For those who like to take out their understandable fury on South Eastern, it is an interesting fact that the individual faults are roughly two thirds down to Network Rail, and only one third down to South Eastern. This is about the average for the whole national network.
One of the points on which MPs from both West and East Kent were unanimous was that we did not want the Mayor of London (whoever it is) deciding the schedules for trains running into London from the county. Further in on the line there are demands for Transport for London to take over the franchise, but this would leave us very vulnerable.
We were also all interested in the thought that the new franchise could be a partnership between the regional arm of Network Rail and an operating company. The Transport Secretary has indicated his willingness to look at new ways of organising franchises, so this may be a possibility.
The franchise consultation ends on May 23rd, so if you have thoughts do email them to me before then.