Here is a copy of my written submission for the South Western Rail Franchise Consultation. Together with fellow Hampshire MPs, I presented our submission to the Department of Transport.
South Western Consultation
Co-ordinator Department for Transport
4/15 Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
To whom it may concern,
Re: South Western Rail Franchise Consultation
Please find below my written submission to the South Western Franchise Consultation in my capacity of Member of Parliament for Fareham.
Many constituents have contacted me regarding problems with rail services in the area and I do feel that these act as considerable barrier to job creation and productivity. I have divided these into the categories below, which align with the Stakeholder Consultation document themes;
Constituents have informed me that crowding is a significant driver of passenger dissatisfaction. Many are furious that they pay extortionate sums of money for a season ticket to have to sit on the floor in corridors or stand for sections of, or the entirety of their journey. I am keen that capacity is increased during commuting hours so as passengers receive good value for money. I am unsure as to whether reducing the number of seats in first class or providing additional carriages/services provides the answer, however a solution must be found to ensure this does not impact so adversely on commuters.
Facilities on-board vary from train to train. I believe that customers should be able to expect a minimum level of service when travelling and this should include; free WIFI, allocated seating and access to beverages. Many commuters in my constituency spend a considerable amount of their week on the train and these services are crucial to ensuring they travel in comfort and can continue to work whilst traveling, if they so wish.
The lack of facilities available at stations causes much concern. Parking is an issue at all three stations in my constituency: Swanwick, Fareham and Portchester. Constituents often choose to commute via car, as there is not enough parking available at train stations.
One of my main concerns is accessibility. At Portchester station I am aware that the down platform towards Portsmouth is accessible via a very steep ramp, with some wheelchair users therefore requiring assistance. There is no wheelchair access to the up platform towards Southampton.
In addition to this only platform one at Swanwick station, with trains travelling towards Southampton, is accessible.
This means that wheelchair users and those with pushchairs are able to travel to Portsmouth from Portchester station, but not from Swanwick and to Southampton from Swanwick but not from Portchester. As many wheelchair users and those with children drive a car, this makes it unfeasible to park at a station and complete a return journey. I feel there is a pressing need to rectify this as soon as possible.
Fares and Ticketing
Over 1200 students leave the Fareham area on a daily basis to commute to college. A considerable number of these travel via train from Portchester, Fareham or Swanwick to Eastleigh or Winchester stations. In addition, many travel to Fareham College for vocational course provision, which is a five minute walk from Fareham station. I believe, as do many of my constituents, that a student discount should apply when travelling to and from college. I am aware that the 16-25 railcard exists, however many feel extra discount should be available for the purposes of commuting to an educational establishment.
Constituents also feel there should be a discount available to over 65’s. Again I am mindful of the railcard option, however as with the 16-25 railcard, this needs to be purchased. Many feel student and over 65’s discount should be available automatically, without the need to purchase a rail card. This would increase railway usage during quieter times of the day, as both students and the over 65’s do not necessarily travel during commuter time periods.
Train Service Specification
Constituents have raised issues regarding commute times from Fareham to London Waterloo by train. This is a relatively short distance of circa 80 miles. The time it takes to travel by rail however is 1 hour 39 minutes for fast trains and 1 hour 56 minutes for regular trains.
Constituents have demonstrated that Birmingham to London is circa 130 miles, yet the train takes only 1 hour 24 minutes or 1 hour 50 minutes for the fast and slow trains respectively. Despite the extra 50 miles distance, it is quicker to travel from Birmingham to London than it is from Fareham to London. I am keen to ensure a faster connection from Fareham to London, recognising the needs of Fareham’s many commuters to the City.
In addition, constituents would like faster travel between the three main cities of the south coast- Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth. Many have informed me that they choose to commute daily via car, often experiencing long delays due to traffic on the M27, as the rail service is so poor. This problem is twofold- constituents would like a quicker and more reliable service. They would also however appreciate trains stopping at smaller stations such as Swanwick and Portchester. The notion of smaller stations being underutilised is one I hear often, with trains often terminating at Fareham.
I thank you for taking into consideration the issues I have raised and I look forward to these being addressed under the new franchise.