‘Lives are being destroyed’ over Southern rail chaos

Sussex MPs said the chaos on the rails is ruining people’s lives, and criticised rail bosses for having ‘no sense of urgency’ after huge disruption this morning (July 5).

Commuters were advised not to travel from Sussex to London Victoria by train after a signalling fault closed the railway line at Streatham.

But the problems first arose at 10pm last night (July 4) and Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell Moyle said more could have been done to avert the chaos this morning.

Mr Russell-Moyle said: “They have known about this problem since 10pm last night. You would expect them to have back up plans for these things. That means since 10pm last night they should have been making contingency plans. It does sometimes feel like they do not really seem to react with any sense of urgency.”

Now Southern has said disruption is likely to last until at least 7am tomorrow morning.

A Southern spokesperson said: “If you are planning to use Gatwick Express and Southern train services today, you are advised not to travel via London Victoria.

Passengers were advised not to attempt to travel to London Victoria (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

Passengers were advised not to attempt to travel to London Victoria (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

“If your journey is not essential, we recommend you do not travel.”

Mr Russell-Moyle said this week, he and Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, met with Jo Johnson, a minister for the Department for Transport.

The Labour MP said he told the minister: “People are losing their jobs, lives are being destroyed, relationships are ending, all because of this. It does not seem like you are not taking this seriously. You do not seem angry, you do not seem upset, you do not see how much damage this is doing. It would help if you showed a bit of compassion.”

He explained that because delay repayments from Southern were paid by the Government, and didn’t hit the operator’s profits, Govia Thameslink had no incentive to run trains on time.

“Disruption does not actually cost them anything.”

He added that he thought the Government would soon strip Govia Thameslink of the Southern and Thameslink franchises.

“My feeling is the franchise must be stripped,” Mr Russell-Moyle said. “I think they are preparing to take the franchise.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “For this disruption to come on top of the six weeks of hell that passengers have faced since the May 20 timetable fiasco started, is beggars belief.

“These routine failures are ruining lives – people have faced four-hour journeys home and today it’s suggested people do not travel at all.

“My inbox is full of heart-rending testimony, children not picked up, single parents at a loss, routine lateness, exhaustion, cancelled train upon cancelled train. Hours of stress, as standard – every day.

“Responsibility goes to the top – this is happening on Secretary of State Chris Grayling’s watch.

“I met his Rail Minister this week, and it’s clear that he does not have a grip. There is no competence and no genuine understanding of the action needed to put this right. Chris Grayling has got to go, and the Government have got to start taking this seriously.”

Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, said: “It is unconscionable that passengers are facing this when they have already suffered so much, not just in the last two months, but for years now. It is no exaggeration to say that the ongoing chaos is ruining lives, and everyone involved in running our railways must do everything they can to get a grip on this situation as a matter of extreme urgency.”

He also published a lengthy post on his Facebook page on Wednesday about the rail issues, and said: “I’ve been trying really hard to hold people to account for this mess, to make your anger felt by those in power, and to gather as much information for you as possible.”

This morning Network Rail said damage to signalling equipment in the Streatham Common area was the cause of disruption, with no Southern or Gatwick Express services able to serve London Victoria.

Govia Thameslink (GTR), the Southern and Thameslink rail operator, advised passengers not to travel and said disruption would last until the end of the day.

A GTR spokesman said: “Network Rail is working hard to rectify this fault but in the meantime passengers are urged not to travel from the south on our remaining services which will be heavily overcrowded.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We have had engineers working on site overnight doing all they can to fix the problem. However, we anticipate that the signalling will not be up and running this morning.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused by the fault and passengers are being advised not to travel with Thameslink, Southern or Gatwick Express from the south into London this morning.”

For updates, visit: www.southernrailway.com

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