I thank my hon. Friend Clive Efford for securing this very important debate. This is the first time that I have spoken in a Westminster Hall debate, and my reasons for speaking in this one will not surprise anyone. Lewisham, one of the stations that has been mentioned quite a lot during the debate, is in my constituency and I am bombarded by constituents contacting me because of the numerous problems that many hon. Members have mentioned.
I intended to start by shining a light on some of Southeastern’s recent performance issues, but the problem with shining any light on Southeastern is that that is one of the excuses that is quite often used by the company. It has said that congestion in Lewisham is down to strong sunlight, so along with snowy days, wet days and windy days, Southeastern apparently cannot function on sunny days. As well as the poor performance that everyone has mentioned, it has poor excuses.
I have spoken to hundreds of people about their dissatisfaction with the state of the trains in south-east London. In my constituency, Southeastern operates six of the 10 stations. I will outline some of the concerns expressed to me. Oliver wrote to me in January, telling me that each time he used Southeastern trains in a two-week period he experienced monumental delays and cancellations, and often no explanation was given at all. Of course, there is a complaints procedure, but when my constituent Jos attempted to complain twice, after being dropped off in the middle of the night at a platform that she did not recognise because Southeastern had failed to announce that the train was no longer scheduled to arrive at her station, she received no response. One constituent even told me that she had considered moving because she was so miserable with the state of travel in Lewisham, Deptford.
I could go on—we all receive hundreds of emails and Twitter messages, and people come and speak to us every time we travel to work, about the poor customer service—but I will not. What I will say is that the current franchise system combines the worst of both worlds. It is definitely not a public system, but neither is it wholly privatised: the taxpayer still subsidises the operating systems to the tune of millions of pounds every year. Astoundingly, it costs the taxpayer much more since the railways were privatised than it did under a public system. Commuters are constantly met with rising fares and diminishing service, while Southeastern’s profits continue to soar.
Last month, Lewisham, Deptford welcomed the news that Transport for London will be taking over Southeastern routes and stations throughout south-east London in 2018. That is a great start, but as many hon. Members have said, if Southeastern cannot run the service properly now, perhaps it should lose the franchise sooner.