Comment by Observer
Rail commuters on the Uckfield line have had anything but a happy new year.
The service to and from London Bridge immediately collapsed into chaos on Monday morning and was still in a total muddle as I wrote this article yesterday.
This comes after London Bridge was closed for a fortnight over Christmas to allow engineers free rein to press on with what is, admittedly, a mighty complicated task.
However, it is not unreasonable to suggest that Network Rail should have left all in good working order ready for the resumption of service.
Congestion, congestion and more congestion
What did we get? Signal failure after signal failure.
Southern trains now has three lines into its London Bridge platforms, instead of the six before Christmas.
Result: congestion, which makes trains run late and once late, there is no chance of getting things right and it leads, yes you’ve got it, to more congestion.
Too many services terminated at Crowborough
Southern tries to get its Uckfield services back to timetable by terminating down services at Crowborough. Buxted and Uckfield passengers are turfed off the train so the service can start on time for the northbound service.
I gather rail replacement buses have been fed into the system later in the week – but not always when needed and not in sufficient numbers.
It has resulted in passengers have to make their own way home and Uckfield/Buxted having two hours between trains.
Trains leaving half empty
Passengers have also suffered overcrowding on the concourse at London Bridge, making it difficult for them to get through and on to trains, which, it is reported, have in some cases left half empty.
The whole situation is a Class One lash-up. It beggars belief. This a total and utter shambles.
What makes it worse is that there is – once again with Network Rail – no plan B. Remember, this is the company which ran into problems north of Kings Cross after Christmas and thought Finsbury Park commuter station could serve as an alternative to a mainline terminus.
I accept that rebuilding London Bridge is a hugely complicated project and that things are bound to go wrong. It happens.
Time for political action
The criticisms are:
- Why were some of these problems not anticipated?
- Why wasn’t a contingency plan in place?
- What’s being done to ensure that this week’s lash-up isn’t repeated next week?
- Who is in charge? There has been little sign of strong, visible management from either Network Rail or Southern.
Parliamentary Select Committee must act
On the political front, I hope the MPs whose constituencies cover the Uckfield line raise this matter in Parliament at the earliest opportunity and seek to have the whole fiasco investigated by the Commons Select Committee for Transport. The committee is scheduled to examine the chaos at Kings Cross and Paddington, over the last weekend of December, on Wednesday, January 14.
Hopefully, the members of the committee will take the opportunity of widening their brief and the scope of the session.
At the moment it appears to be a one-off half-day public session.
I for one would love to see the bosses of Network Rail dragged to Parliament and put on the spot in front of the committee; along with the Secretary of State for Transport who is ultimately in charge.
Uckfield line passengers demand action and they demand it now. A full inquiry is needed. Those responsible must realise their jobs are on the line if the Parliamentary Select Committee finds there have been failings that could have been avoided.
For one, in my view, Network Rail is increasingly is looking “not fit for purpose”, as politicians like to say.