Our Saturday independent columnist Observer welcomes pledges from Southern to improve and suggestions that the worst is now over. But, our writer says, the train operator must now deliver.
Southern has published a booklet in which it is quite bullish about the prospects for passengers from May onwards when there are major changes to the timetable.
I will select out a few comments from the publication, which I picked up at Uckfield railway station.
Top man Charles Horton admits the last couple of years have been “very difficult for many of our passengers”. He’s right there, Sherlock.
He says Southern and its sister companies, Great Northern, Gatwick Express, and ThamsLink, are now emerging from a difficult transitional period.
“From May, delivery of improvements for passengers will gather pace,” he wrote.
And there is also a recognition that the train operators have “much more to do to ensure we deliver the consistent level of reliable service that passengers and want and that we are committed to providing”.
Angie Doll, passenger services director for Southern, says in the same publication: “We’re committed to delivering punctual services that keep to the timetable and that our passengers can rely on.”
There’s even news on the new ticket machines – the Uckfield one was out-of-order for long periods until quite recently.
Data shows 95 per cent are working at any one time and “we aim to increase that figure too”.
So, all good news for Uckfield Line passengers.
Well, hold your horses.
Information published on Facebook by Buxted man David Wells indicates that Southern’s cancellations were up one per cent for the first three months of the year, compared with the same period last year.
And during this last week, a train failure at Oxted led to many morning commuters not getting to their desks until nearly lunchtime.
My big fear is that the diesel trains used on Uckfield services hardly get a breather, are racking up huge mileages and, hard to believe for those of us who remember the slam-door Thumpers, that they are getting long-in-the-tooth.
This could well be the Achilles heel which will defeat Southern on services to our corner of Sussex.
I, like every other commuter or user of the Uckfield Line, want a safe, reliable train service.
We would welcome these improvements with open arms.
However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and there’s been some pretty unpalatable stuff on the Uckfield Line in recent years.
Let’s hope the services do get better, become more reliable and it’s not Southern having to eat humble pie in their next booklet.