Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rail Minister Refuses to Blame Southern for Its Chaotic Commuter Service; PASSENGERS PLAN PROTEST AS 'EMERGENCY' TIMETABLE STARTS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rail Minister Refuses to Blame Southern for Its Chaotic Commuter Service; PASSENGERS PLAN PROTEST AS 'EMERGENCY' TIMETABLE STARTS

Article excerpt

Byline: Joseph Watts, Dick Murray and Sophia Sleigh

RAIL minister Claire Perry today sparked anger for failing to condemn Southern Railway after it cancelled hundreds of services into London.

Speaking ahead of a planned protest by commuters at Victoria station today following weeks of travel misery, Ms Perry refused to blame Southern for the chaos and poured cold water on any move to strip its operating company of the franchise.

A number of politicians have called for the Southern franchise to be stripped from Govia Thameslink Railway and for its bosses to be sacked. Southern this morning implemented an emergency timetable cancelling 350 further services after weeks of cancelled services due to staff sickness and an industrial dispute.

But Ms Perry said problems behind the chaos would continue regardless of who ran the franchise.

She added: "If I was to say today that the department is going to run the franchise, would anything change?" Lib-Dem leader Tim Farron called on the rail regulator to step in and cut fares to recompense passengers.

He added: "These bosses should be fired."

Tory Tonbridge MP Tom Tugendhat also called for action: "I have lost confidence in the management. I would strip them of the franchise."

Meanwhile Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas demanded the franchise be stripped and fares cut.

Tonight's protest at Victoria was in part arranged by passenger Tom Walters who pays PS3,000 a year to travel to Brighton for work.

He said: "I only work 35 miles away from my house but to get home it's been taking me three hours plus.

"For 10 weeks I have not been able to see my young son during the week. It's been horrific."

Southern is locked in a heated row with unions over driver-only trains and changing the role of conductors.

In a bid to bring the two sides together Ms Perry said she would guarantee the role of conductors, saying there would be no changes in their terms and conditions. …

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