Last week in the House of Commons, Maria Caulfield the MP for Lewes raised two matters with Chris Grayling that are of great interest to many of us in Sussex and frankly his response was pathetic. Her first question was to ask what his plans are for improving the rail infrastructure in Sussex:
My hon. Friend will be aware that we are making a range of substantial investments on the rail network in Sussex, including in longer platforms on the Uckfield line, a new Thameslink depot and upgraded power systems. That said, I want to be clear that I am well aware of the frustrations felt by passengers in her constituency. Quite apart from the disgraceful and unwarranted industrial action that is taking place at the moment, one of the key issues is that this network is not reliable enough. I give her and her constituents an assurance that I am looking very hard at how to step up a programme of incremental improvements to stop the day-by-day breakdowns that are making the current issues much worse.
Its staggering that after 6 years in Government, we are still left with a Ministers who is ‘looking very hard’ at a way of stopping the breakdowns that are causing hundreds of thousands of travellers frustration and sometimes misery on a daily basis. That is not an adequate response and frankly Grayling who has been in post as Secretary of State for Transport for over 4 months needs to give a firm commitment to how long people will have to wait until the breakdowns are no longer happening on a day-by-day basis. However Ms Caulfield then asked about Brighton Mainline 2 which involves reinstating a track from Lewes to Uckfield. Once again the response from Grayling was inadequate:
I am well aware of the degree of campaigning behind the Brighton main line 2 concept. My hon. Friend the rail Minister and I have discussed that, and I am aware that a report has sat on the desk for much too long. I intend to make sure that it does not sit on the desk for very much longer.
It does not seem to be too harsh to demand a timetable for this report to be addressed and a response published. After all timetables are what railways are supposed to run on and plans are what Governments are supposed to rely on. It is time for a date to be given regarding an announcement on BML2 and an indication of when the incremental improvements to BML1 will make a difference to my friends and neighbours who work in London on a weekly basis, let alone those of us who travel to London less frequently but still rely on the Brighton mainline. Finally we need Grayling and his hon. friend to take the much tougher decision of removing the franchise from Southern and repackaging it into a form that can be run more effectively. He is quick to blame the strikers, but industrial action requires two parties to create a dispute.