London TravelWatch calls for a common sense railway closures process on 31/07/2012
At last week’s London TravelWatch Board meeting, members discussed the possible closure of scheduled passenger services between Wandsworth Road, Kensington Olympia and Ealing Broadway. The independent passenger watchdog hopes to use its response to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) consultation to ensure that in future there is no way for operators to avoid or delay a formal closure process when they start to make major changes to a route.
The closure process for this service was initiated by the DfT in May 2012, several years after major changes were made when a new timetable was introduced as part of the Arriva Cross Country franchise. Since these changes, a situation has developed where a ‘ghost train’ runs once a day in each direction on this stretch of track and a ‘ghost bus’ runs once a week; the minimum requirement to avoid a formal closure process. However, both services do not serve the same stations as the previous Cross Country train service as they were put in place solely to fulfil a legal obligation. Normally in a closure process, passengers would have an opportunity to say how they would be disadvantaged but in this case, they were denied that opportunity.
London TravelWatch asked the rail regulator to intervene in this case but it declined because the DfT had not formally started a closure process and they could not act until the DfT had initiated this. The DfT has now chosen to stop this practice in order to reduce the cost to the taxpayer.
Sharon Grant, Chair, London TravelWatch said: ‘It is unfair that passengers have had to wait so long for the closure process to start in this case. We hope that the points we raise in our response to the DfT’s consultation will lead to a change in franchising arrangements to ensure that a similar situation does not reoccur. The rail regulator must have the power to force a closure process to be carried out when major changes are made. We need to put a stop to the practice of running unused skeleton services purely to avoid the legal requirement to consult the public about withdrawing a train service.
The possible closure of scheduled passenger services between Wandsworth Road, Kensington Olympia and Ealing Broadway is carried out under the national procedures for closures rather than the ‘London’ process that took place for the recent Watford Met station proposal in which the public had an opportunity to comment on closure proposals before any services were withdrawn.
For more information, please contact the London TravelWatch press office on 020 7726 9953 or 07734 055494.