/ Travel & Leisure

What’s being done to improve Southern’s service?

Southern rail

Peter Kyle MP and The Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP are joint chairs on the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for Southern. They join as guest authors to tell us more about what’s being done to fix the issues with this rail network.

As MPs both representing constituencies with thousands of commuters, we know only too well just how poor the service on Southern and the Brighton Main Line has been over the past 18 months.

Passengers have been paying thousands of pounds a year for the privilege of being late for work most mornings or missing their child’s bedtime because their train home was delayed.

In response, we set up our APPG to bring MPs across the region together to send a clear message to Southern, Network Rail and the DfT that they are failing our constituents and must up their game – and fast.

Since our group was formed in July, we’ve already held sessions with the rail minister, Paul Maynard MP, and senior DfT officials, with meetings scheduled with Network Rail early next month.

Making progress

There has been some encouraging progress since Paul Maynard was appointed in July. This has included the extension of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to the rail sector – a year earlier than previously planned. He also reduced the time limits for Delay Repay claims on Southern from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, both of which came as a result of some excellent campaigning from Which?

The new independent review board, which has £20m to spend on infrastructure improvements and is chaired by experienced rail industry figure, Chris Gibb, is also welcome. Chris met our group and showed he had grasped the scale of a problem in a way that previous ministers and officials had failed to do. He’s been right across the network, leaving no stone unturned in his bid to improve the service for passengers.

In December, the review board will report on its findings, but a number of improvements have already been put in place, including dramatically reducing the number of older rolling stock used in the peak periods, trains that had been unpopular with passengers and prone to delays.

What next?

There now needs to be an urgent resolution to the dispute between Southern and the RMT, based on the principle of putting passengers first.

There are also many deep-seated problems on the Brighton Main Line, and we recognise there isn’t one easy solution to make everything better.

But the key players involved can be doing more, and our group is here to make sure that they are doing everything in their power to improve the service for long-suffering passengers right across the South East.

This is a guest contribution by MPs Peter Kyle and The Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames, joint chairs on the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for Southern. All views expressed here are their own, not necessarily those shared by Which?

Have you been affected by the ongoing issues with these rail networks? What do you think should be done to improve their service?

Alistair McClean says:
2 November 2016

The people most affected by these disputes are the customers/commuters, yet they have the least say.
Southern seems to be badly managed and the unions seem to be too keen to go on strike as the first option. The unions complain about safety issues but I would have thought that having fewer trains leading to even more chronic overcrowding is even a bigger safety than driver/camera control of the doors. I assume that any safety issues have been assessed the relevant bodies qualified to do this, [maybe this assessment can be made public]. I would like to see serious customer/commuter representation when these issues go into arbitration and their views given the serious consideration that they deserve before any further disruption is allowed . I would like to see financial penalties against both train operators and unions if public interest is ignored. Maybe the franchise should be taken over by TFL if Southern continue to fail their customers. Time for heads to be banged together.

Charlie Gordon says:
2 November 2016

I travel with Southern Rail daily, nothing has improved, if anything the service has got worse. If one of the authors of this article can let me know how I claim for a 15 minute delay on Southern I would love to know as you can’t. No date has been given for implementing this.


Hi Charlie, you’re right the 15 delay repay isn’t in place yet. It was announced on 13th October. We don’t have a date from Paul Maynard as to when it will come into force yet, but we do know Southern will be the first rail network to get it. We’ll update you when we hear more.


We criticise Southern and we criticise the unions as if one or the other is “to blame” whereas, most probably, both share the blame. It seems to have developed into a childish macho battle. What I would like to see is a balanced explanation of the facts and views of both sides with evidence to support either valid positions or fallacies. We, the public, rarely get this; we just see the headlines and react to often unbalanced information. Sometimes when the basic facts are exposed the sillyness of some stances becomes apparent.


I have to say it sounds awful for everyone concerned. We’ve never used it as we live in the diagonally opposed area of the UK. What I do find, however, is that there seems to simple and straightforward way to discover the facts. So I agree with Malcolm that facts are essential in this debate.


And we need longer edit times. The sentence there seems to simple and straightforward way to discover the facts should read there seems no simple and straightforward way to discover the facts


@carneades and @malcolm-r below – I’ve increased edit times from 15 minutes to 30 minutes 🙂


Thanks Patrick.