The Department for Transport ran a consultation earlier this year seeking input on priorities for the next South Western rail franchise. My own response to this consultation as a local MP within the area concerned is detailed below.
“I write in response to the Department of Transport’s consultation over the South Western Rail Franchise. I would like to highlight the following areas of concern for residents and businesses across my Parliamentary constituency of Runnymede and Weybridge.
The concerns relate specifically to the future provision of rail services on the Reading line, calling at Staines, Egham and Virginia Water, the Woking line via Weybridge, and the stopping service to Addlestone.
While Surrey has a fairly comprehensive rail network, many services are at full capacity and suffer from significant peak time overcrowding.
A key issue is capacity. Whilst I very much welcome the improvements that National Rail are delivering, providing a suburban network which is fully 10-car capable, South West Trains’ services have not matched the new capability of this expanded infrastructure and often still provide only an 8-car train service. Utilising this new infrastructure to its full potential would help ease the current situation of chronic overcrowding.
Another concern is the impact of future housing developments across the Runnymede and Elmbridge boroughs and the projected population growth in the area over the next decade, which will put further strain on already stretched rail facilities. Whichever provider is successful in winning the new franchise must take into account this ever rising demand when planning for future services.
Increasing the reliability of rail services is also of great importance to my constituents. The service-providers must ensure that there is a high frequency of trains on popular lines, with a consistent and regular service that customers can count on to arrive on time, without sporadic cancellations and no legitimate explanation. All too often commuters arrive at Weybridge on a delayed train only to discover that the connecting service to Chertsey and Addlestone has departed without them.
Increasing staff numbers to assist passengers and maintaining a high level of customer service are similarly important.
Whilst it is to be commended that my constituency is well served by trains running late into the evening, many of the later services involve changes en route, making them more susceptible to delays or cancellations on other sections of the network. A more direct stopping service would provide a more reliable alternative for those travelling late in the evening, preventing passengers having to rely on the running of multiple services.”
The DfT are currently analysing all of the public feedback they received and will publish their official response in due course.