[Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair] — Southeastern Train Services

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 2nd March 2016.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 9:30 am, 2nd March 2016

That is a worry and something the Minister should consider. If that is the case, the Government should take the franchise away now, because if Southeastern is going to look at its bottom line rather than the quality of the service, passengers will continue to suffer. That was a prime example of giving way to someone and them coming up with a better line in their intervention than I have in my speech, so I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on pulling all that together.

People in south-eastern London have suffered for decades. We had the disastrous privatisation that gave us the Connex franchise. We then had a period of relative stability, when the franchise was taken back in-house—in effect, nationalised—but that was followed by the ridiculous decision under the Labour Government to reprivatise it. I opposed that at the time, but we are where we are.

Passengers who use London Bridge station understand that the Thameslink scheme is bound to cause disruption. They have accepted that, despite the chaos at Christmas 2014. At the time, the Minister accepted that there had been an unacceptable deterioration in the service and she took action—I commend her for that—but this year’s performance has deteriorated to an all-time low. Passengers had accepted that train patterns would be substantially altered and that regular journeys had to change, because trains that people were used to catching might no longer be going to Cannon Street or Charing Cross, but the level of disruption they are suffering now is nothing to do with that. On the lines between Dartford and London Bridge, the service has failed, although when we had discussions before the Thameslink works started, we were told that the situation was under control. As I said, my constituents do not care who is to blame; they want to know that the tickets they purchase will get them to where they want to go.

I am grateful to the Library for an excellent paper it has produced to provide Members with information for this debate. It sets out how the public performance measure is calculated. The PPM shows the percentage of trains that arrive at their terminating station on time and combines figures for punctuality and reliability into a single performance measure. It is the industry standard for measuring performance, but it does not distinguish between extreme lateness and a brief delay. Southeastern’s PPM has fallen from 91.3% 12 months ago to 83.2% now. The average for all operators is 89.3%, so we are way below that. Another measure is right-time performance, which uses the percentage of trains arriving at their terminating station early or within 59 seconds of schedule. Southeastern’s right-time performance has fallen from 65.2% 12 months ago to 53.5% now. The average for all operators is 64.8%. Again, it is well below average.

The cancellation and significant lateness measure is for when a train is cancelled at origin or en route—this was my experience on the train that was going to Bexleyheath but then went to Sidcup—and when the originating station is changed or the train is diverted. A train is significantly late if it arrives at its terminating station 30 minutes or more late. On that measure, 2.4% of Southeastern trains were cancelled or significantly late 12 months ago, but the figure is now 4.3%—it has nearly doubled—while the average for all operators is 3%.

On every single measure we see poor performance from Southeastern. In autumn 2015, Passenger Focus showed that Southeastern’s passenger satisfaction was 75%, down from a high of 84% in 2013. In autumn 2015, the Chiltern franchise had the highest satisfaction rate, at 91%. The bottom three ranked operators were Thameslink, Southern—they are franchised as Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern—and Southeastern, which share the common factor of going into London Bridge. That must account for some of the dissatisfaction that people have with the service.

Last week, Which? published its annual passenger satisfaction survey. Southeastern was placed joint last, with an overall score of 46%; last year it was at 45%. Which? considers the impression of passengers over the previous year of the service provided. The difference between that and the Passenger Focus survey is that Passenger Focus considers the last journey that passengers made. That can be open to all sorts of factors, which can distort the figure. I would say that the Which? methodology far more accurately reflects the passenger experience than that of Passenger Focus, which is now Transport Focus. Those figures demonstrate just how consistently poor the service has been.