WEST SUSSEX RAIL USERS ASSOCIATION
64, Brampton Court, Stockbridge Road, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8PD
Tel: 01243 788028
In this Newsletter there is (at last!) the formal notice of our AGM, some more detail on the timetable changes in December, an update on the now merged franchise, some better news on performance and a request for unpaid 2015 subscriptions. Most members will receive this Newsletter by e-mail. If you have received it by post and have an e-mail address that we could use in future, please let me know by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will save us postage costs and you will get Newsletters a few days earlier.
As you may remember we postponed the AGM initially because of changes in the Committee and the then impending change that took place in July when Southern joined Thameslink and Great Northern in the TSGN franchise as Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). Added to our problems was the non-availability of the Studio in the Capitol at Horsham during May and June. In our last Newsletter, we said that we expected to hold the AGM in late September or October, but again we had problems in securing the Studio and I can now tell you that it will be on Wednesday 4th November at 7pm. We did ask for members’ views on whether they preferred the meeting to take place on a Saturday morning or on a weekday evening. Only about a third of members responded to this and the consensus was (just) for a weekday evening and we have gone along with this. The formal notice is:
The Annual General Meeting of the Association will be at 7pm on Wednesday 4th November in the Studio of the Capitol Theatre, North Road, Horsham, RH12 1RG. The Capitol is a few minutes’ walk from the main entrance of Horsham Station in the direction of the town centre. Refreshments will be available for purchase from the Capitol’s own kiosk.
This year our guest speaker will be David Scorey, Passenger Services Director, Southern Mainline and Coast. Mr Scorey will address us after the formal business of the AGM has been completed and there be ample time for you to ask questions on Southern’s recent performance and other matters.
The formal business of the AGM will be the Chairman’s report, approving the accounts already circulated, banking mandate changes and the election of the Committee. Our co-opted Chairman, James Marchant will be stepping down and so far there has been one nomination for Chairman, Tony Cash, currently representing Christ’s Hospital. The other existing Committee members seeking re-election at the AGM are: Treasurer and Membership Secretary – Trevor Tupper (also representing stations on the West Coastway other than Chichester and Bognor), Roger Leat (Bognor Regis), Jake Clausen (Littlehaven), Paul Brady (Amberley), Valerie Webb (Pulborough), Moira Tracey (Crawley), Peter Bulling (Barnham), Roger Keyworth (Chichester), Michael Gill (Arundel), James Marchant (Billingshurst) and Kevin Gordon (Website). Several of our stations are now unrepresented and we are seeking asking members to represent Horsham, Ifield and Littlehampton. We also need to fill the post of Secretary and we would be grateful for nominations to fill this important post. Nigel Denton is our representative on Rail Future
Southern joined Thameslink and Great Northern in the GTR on 26 July and this franchise is the largest in the UK. There have been some management changes but David Scorey has remained at the helm of our part of Southern. The franchise runs for 7 years and has been let by the Department for Transport (DfT) as a management contract reflecting the complexity and scale of the Thameslink Programme infrastructure works. Ticket revenues estimated at £12.4bn will be passed directly to the government, while Govia will be paid around £8.9bn to cover operating costs and a small margin allowance. There is also an incentive regime based on service quality targets including punctuality, customer experience and revenue protection, along with extra payments for the delivery of ‘key performance milestones.’ We understand that under the contract, DfT specify the services that GTR is required to run, the length of trains and the timetable. If GTR wish to change the timetable or change the number of carriages in a particular train, they need to reach agreement first with Network Rail and then DfT and our understanding is that the case for change should, in general, make a saving or be cash neutral, and not unduly disadvantage train users. So changes such as those in December mentioned below have gone through this procedure and the process has taken many months. So there is little prospect of any radical change to the timetable before 2018.
The first of the new class 700 units for Thameslink has reached the new Three Bridges facility for testing. These units, 60 with 8 cars and 55 with 12 cars, are being built by Siemens in Germany and will be delivered to GTR over the next 3 years. In the meantime, 26 new class 387/1 units have been built and are in use on Thameslink releasing some of the older 319 units which have been transferred to Northern Rail for services out of Manchester. As the 700s become available, the class 387 units will move to Thames Valley services out of Paddington during 2016/17 and the 377/5s and 377/2s originally built for Southern but now working on Thameslink will move to Great Northern for services from Kings Cross to Cambridge. There are no plans to replace the wretched class 313s on Coastway services before 2020, although there is a possibility of getting a few of the 377s released by Thameslink. Finally, during 2016, 27 new class 387/2s with Wi-Fi will be delivered for Gatwick Express and most of the class 442s currently in use will be withdrawn. Apart from these 387/2s there are no plans to equip any of our trains with Wi-Fi.
This has improved markedly in recent weeks and this improvement can be seen in the September update to the joint (Southern, Thameslink and Network Rail) improvement plan. This can be read at: www.southernrailway.com/improvementplan.
There are still problems with short formations and cancellations due to train failures and shortage of drivers. Southern do try to give some notice of these on their Twitter and it is worth keeping an eye on this. If you are delayed by more than 30 minutes because of a cancellation or late running because of train or signal problems, you may be entitled to make a claim under the delay repay scheme.
There will be significant changes to our off-peak services from 14th December but no further changes to peak services. The off-peak services include the services throughout the day on Saturdays. There are no changes to our dismal Sunday services despite pressure from your Association.
The main change to the off-peak services is the removal of Horley and Redhill stops from those trains running to and from Victoria to Bognor Regis, Portsmouth Harbour and Southampton Central. There will be a reduction in journey time of around 5 minutes in each direction together with removal of frequent overcrowding north of Redhill. Exact timings are still awaited but we understand that the current 02 and 32 minutes past each hour from Victoria will become 06 and 36 with, presumably, little or no change to current arrival times south of Gatwick. There will be no loss of fast services to and from Redhill as the existing services from Tonbridge and Reigate to London Bridge will be diverted to Victoria running fast to East Croydon from Redhill. Horley and Redhill passengers will have two Thameslink services an hour on the trains currently running from Three Bridges to Bedford. There will also be a slightly faster service to Worthing and stations on to Littlehampton with the removal of some intermediate stops between Haywards Heath and Worthing. Full details on this and planned blockades at London Bridge and elsewhere for Christmas 2015 and during 2016 will be given in a Newsletter later this year.
Our membership year runs from 1 March and subscriptions for 2014-15 are now due. Many members have already paid their subscription either directly or by standing order. If you have not paid, a renewal form is enclosed. The subscription remains at £2 and can be paid by cheque through the post, by cheque or in cash at the AGM, by direct bank credit or by standing order, the renewal form gives details of all these options. A few did not pay their subscriptions for last year and rather than deleting them as members, we are asking them to pay for 2 years and for those members the payment slip shows £4.
WSRUA's president, Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, met with the Rail Minister on 6 January to discuss services in West Sussex. You can read about it on his website.
We now have a Facebook page at facebook.com/wsrua. Please “like” it if you want to keep in touch and contribute through that medium.
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has been appointed President of the West Sussex Rail Users Association (WSRUA).
The voluntary group invited the local MP to take up the role in their Association because of his work to improve local rail journeys and as a regular user of the local services.
The West Sussex Rail Users Association was established to be a unified voice that represents the interests of rail users in West Sussex to ensure their needs are understood and met.
The Association has been campaigning for increased investment and significant improvements in rail services for West Sussex. It also works with the public transport sector and local authorities to establish an integrated public transport in the County.
Mr Herbert has urged Network Rail to consider constructing the Arundel Chord, a short piece of track that would enable trains to turn east below Arundel, providing a direct link between Horsham and Worthing. Following the MP’s request Network Rail have included the Arundel Chord in a broader Route Study which will be complete by the end of this year. The final document is expected early next year.
Michael Cover, Chairman of the West Sussex Rail Users Association said: “We are delighted to welcome Nick Herbert MP as our new President. It is a great honour that Nick has been able to take up this role and we very much look forward to working with him and other stakeholders, including the West Sussex County Council, to achieve better connectivity and faster trains for rail users up and down the Arun Valley and along the West Coastway.”
Nick Herbert said: “Many of my constituents rely on the local rail service and I constantly raise issues on their behalf and press for improvements. We have recently seen better signalling installed on the Arun Valley line, and the major upgrade underway at London Bridge will make a huge difference to services in the future, but there are many ongoing issues about punctuality, cleanliness of trains and parking at the stations like Pulborough that need to be addressed.
“I was delighted to be invited to become President of the West Sussex Rail Users Association and I look forward to working with and supporting them to represent the interests of rail users.”
As notified in the May 2014 Newsletter, the WSRUA AGM 2014 was held on 31st May 2014. The draft minutes can be downloaded here; these will be presented for approval at the 2015 AGM. The Q&A session with our speaker David Scorey, Operations Director of Southern Railway is also included.
The Arun Valley resignalling finally commenced operation on Monday 17 March. All the mechanical signals along the line have been removed and replaced by modern colour light signals controlled from the Three Bridges Centre. The Billingshurst level crossing is also controlled from Three Bridges. The signal boxes at Billingshurst, Pulborough and Amberley have been taken out of use. The Grade 2 listed Billingshurst box has been removed for preservation at the Amberley Working Museum. The Pulborough box is being retained by Network Rail and the Amberley box, which is on the station has been boarded up as shown in the photo. We hope that a use can be found for this unique building.
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
From the Minister of State, the Rt. Hon. Simon Burns MP
Tel: 020 7944 3082, Fax: 020 7944 4492, Web site: www.gov.uk/dft
19 August 2013
Monica Edmonds, Chairman, West Sussex Rail Users Association
Dear Ms Edmonds
Thank you for your email of 13 August, to Norman Baker MP, about the Thameslink Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) rail franchise competition. I am replying as Minister of State responsible for Rail.
We are, as you observe, in the process of finalising the specification for this franchise competition, having reviewed all the responses received to the consultation we ran last year. Some of the items you have listed will be included in the specification and some will not.
In particular we will not be requiring the new franchisee to invest in new infrastructure. Infrastructure investment is best implemented by Network Rail, because NR is able to raise investment capital at cheaper rates than Train Operating Companies can, and is able to amortise the project over the lifetime of the asset, which is typically much longer than the average franchise length. Government priorities for Network Rail investment for the years 2014 to 2019 were published last year, and are available on the website at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/high-level-output-specification-2012.
With regard to train services the specification will call for a service broadly similar to that which operates today, but will stress that this is the minimum requirement. Bidders are being encouraged to develop proposals for enhanced services where they can make robust cases for doing so. Tonbridge to Gatwick might be an example of such a service. We will, however, be specifying that Thameslink services must serve Horsham once the Thameslink programme is complete in 2018, and that they may run beyond Horsham if bidders can make a case for such extensions.
We will also be requiring bidders to examine critically all lines of expenditure, consistent with the Government’s intention to reduce the burden of railway operating costs on the taxpayer. It is unlikely (but not impossible), therefore, that bidders will plan to withdraw the class 313 rolling stock because this fleet is comparatively cheap to lease, and because it has recently undergone an expensive refurbishment programme.
We will be encouraging bidders to propose measures to improve the passenger experience. Such initiatives might include improvements to car parking arrangements or re-introduction of on-train catering facilities, but we will not be specifying any particular measures. The train operating community has greater first-hand experience of passenger requirements than Government so we do not believe that we should be prescriptive in such matters.
I hope this information is helpful.
THE RT. HON. SIMON BURNS
Following the resumption by DfT in the franchise process we have written to Norman Baker MP the Parliamentary Under Secretary responsible for rail matters at DfT. Our letter informed him of the priorities and needs of users of the Arun Valley and West Coastway; the full text of the letter is on our Campaigns page. The letter was also copied to the six MPs whose constituencies we represent. The priorities reflect WSRUA membership and rail user surveys in 2012 and 2013 and are as follows:
WSRUA will be meeting all the bidders for the new combined Thameslink-Southern franchise over the coming months to raise their awareness of the potential for growth of the Arun Valley and West Coastway and of users’ priorities for the service. We have asked Michael Cover to take the lead on this will report further on the attitudes and aspirations of each bidder to rail services for West Sussex in future Newsletters and on the website.
When I cancelled the competition for the InterCity West Coast
franchise last October, I also put on hold the live competitions
for 3 other rail franchises. Having carefully considered the
options for these 3 competitions, including the recommendations of
the independent review by Richard Brown, Chairman of Eurostar, I
have this morning informed the stock market of my decisions about
these 3 competitions. I am also today publishing Mr Brown’s advice
about these competitions, having previously redacted it from his report in view of its potentialstock market sensitivity.
In summary, Mr Brown recommended that the government should look
to continue the existing competitions for Essex Thameside and for
the combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise. I
accept those recommendations, and accordingly the competition for
the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise will also be
resumed, with an invitation to tender being issued to the
existing short-listed bidders. This will be for a 7-year
contract term, again as previously announced. Consistent with Mr Brown’s recommendation, I expect this to be more of a management-style contract. This different approach will require more time to develop and test the proposition with the market, and I will set out the timetable for this competition in the spring.
In keeping with the relevant invitations to tender, which made clear that bidders are responsible for their own costs, I do not believe it would be appropriate to reimburse the bidders.
The existing franchises for these services will expire before new long-term contracts can be put in place, so interim arrangements will be required to ensure continuity of rail services. My department has exercised its contractual right to extend the current franchise agreement with First Great Western for a further period of 28 weeks, and I intend to do the same in respect of First Capital Connect.
I have also instructed my department to commence negotiations with the existing train operators (First Great Western, First Capital Connect and c2c) with a view to entering into new interim franchise agreements with them. For Essex Thameside and Thameslink, the period of these interim agreements will be determined by the time needed to complete the competitions for the longer-term franchises, and will not exceed 2 years.
The government continues with its multi-billion pound programme of investment in the rail network regardless of the delay to the franchising programme, and my department will seek to ensure wherever possible that the benefits for passengers previously sought in new substantive franchise agreements are not delayed.
I am mindful of my statutory duty to ensure the continuity of rail services and so, in parallel with my department entering into negotiations with the incumbent train operators, I will also be instructing Directly Operated Railways, a government owned company, to undertake the minimum preparatory measures necessary to operate train services in circumstances where I am unable to agree the terms of an interim agreement with the existing train operator.
WSRUA gave a brief presentation on our work and current activities at the Community Rail Partnership stakeholder event held on 1st November 2012 at Christ's Hospital School. A copy of the slide set is available to view here (PDF).
Below is a Southern Press Notice about their Eyewitness initiative to deter and report low-level crime on the Arun Valley line. Your Association Chairman, Jane Cobb was at the launch on Arundel station and we will keep you informed of developments and progress in future Newsletters and on the website.
Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, Nick Herbert MP has launched Southern’s internal Eyewitness initiative to the public for the first time at Arundel railway station.
Mr Herbert joined Southern senior staff, Rail User Group and West Sussex Community Rail Partnership representatives to launch a trial of Southern’s award winning low-level crime reporting system to passengers who use Southern services between Arundel and Crawley.
Eyewitness is a scheme which allows the reporting of low-level crime by e-mail. The system has been used successfully as an in-house system where Southern staff have e-mailed members of Southern’s Safer Travel and Revenue Protection Teams to report incidences of vandalism, anti-social behaviour and fare evasion. The system allows Southern to respond quickly where officers are in the area, and to identify patterns, trends and hotspots which enables more intelligent deployment of Rail Neighbourhood Officers and Revenue Protection Officers when detailing patrols.
Commenting on the initiative, Mr Herbert said: "I was delighted to help launch the next phase of Southern's Eyewitness scheme which will provide passengers with an effective way to report antisocial behaviour on trains.
"This is further action by Southern who already fund Rail Neighbourhood Officers to help tackle crime and provide a reassuring uniformed presence on trains and at stations. The scheme doesn’t replace police officers, it adds to them, and I believe it's welcomed by the public.
"The minority who can make rail journeys miserable for everyone else need to be dealt with, and I am pleased that Southern is playing its part."
Southern’s Head of Revenue Protection and Security, Martin Grier said: “Eyewitness has been a tremendous success since we introduced it internally 18 months ago. Now we look forward to even better results now that we are asking our passengers to tell us about low-level crime that they have seen.”
In the last 12 months, reported crime on the Arun Valley has fallen overall by 71%. At Billingshurst station, incidences of crime reduced from 28 last year to zero this year.
Passengers witnessing crime between Arundel and Crawley stations can report what they’ve see, where they saw it, when they saw it and a brief description of the offender(s) by sending an e-mail to the dedicated address found on posters at leaflets at staffed stations between Arundel and Crawley.