Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas MP will today question Rail Minister Jo Johnson about the chaos at Preston Park station, where train services have been slashed by around 30 per cent at peak times.
In a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament, Caroline will tell the minister of the hundreds of constituents who have contacted her “literally at their wits’ end”.
Caroline has repeatedly raised the issue of cuts to services at the station, which have led to dangerous overcrowding, resulted in commuters fearing for their jobs and left parents unable to collect their children from school.
Gatwick Express trains, which have called at Preston Park for 10 years, no longer stop there at all. Services that do stop now collect passengers at 11 other stations before reaching Preston Park – which means they are often full on arrival.
The line is also plagued by cancellations: analysis shows that since 16 July, some 63 per cent of Preston Park services were either delayed or cancelled.
In spite of this, Mr Johnson wrote to Caroline on 12 July suggesting that services from Preston Park to Victoria had actually improved. The “out of touch” minister claimed: "Scheduled journey times have in fact improved since the timetable change, with the average morning peak journey time being around a minute quicker".
Caroline is expected to say: “This ongoing fiasco is leading to dangerous overcrowding and distress. Preston Park commuters are literally at their wits’ end and it was no surprise to me – given the daily messages of distress that fill my inbox – that in just five days, 1,098 people signed the petition I presented to the House of Commons last Tuesday calling for the restoration of services.
“I am here to explain, again, to the Minister why his suggestion that Preston Park services to Victoria are more frequent and faster has gone down like a cup of cold sick with Preston Park commuters.
“Gatwick Express services must be reinstated at Preston Park and more trains need to start from Brighton and have enough carriages to meet demand.”
One constituent who wrote to Caroline said: “I commute from Preston Park to London Bridge... The trains are cancelled and delayed more than they run on time.
“I spend the (standing) journey fretting as I'm late for work. I spend the journey home fretting as my child has one parent – me – and I’m left stranded 70 miles away.”
Caroline will ask the Rail Minister to:
- reinstate Gatwick Express trains.
- ensure all trains to and from Preston Park have adequate capacity when passengers board.
- ensure gaps in peak time services are no longer than 15 minutes.
- invest in the station.
- provide trains fit for commuting.
- answer a question from a constituent: “How do you expect people to be able to run lives, collect children, arrive for NHS, police, rail and other security shifts, be punctual for meetings, keep businesses viable?”
The Westminster Hall debate begins at 11am and will be available to watch here: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/8484721c-c310-4784-aa7e-65265c941183