Email from Robert Baker to me 21 January 2011

Dear Mr Nicholson

Thank you for your email dated on 16 December, addressed to the Secretary of State regarding Southeastern train services.  I have been asked to reply.

I am sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the performance of Southeastern services. I will answer the points which you have made in the order in which you have presented them.

  1. The current Government is keen to develop a more cost effective and efficient rail industry. Sir Roy McNulty has carried out a Rail Value for Money Study. The interim report sets out the areas of the rail industry in which savings can be made and gives an indication of the likely scale of savings. This report can be found at the following link;

 

http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/strategyfinance/vfminterimreport/

In light of the findings of the McNulty review, this government is setting up a high level government and industry group to press Network Rail and the industry to work together more efficiently. The current aim is that proposals for industry reform will be published in November 2011.

2.  Southeastern are required to publish their Passenger Charter figures and under the terms of its Franchise Agreement, is required to have these figures independently audited on an annual basis to verify the accuracy of performance data.

3. The Department’s officials monitor Southeastern’s performance against its contractual targets on a four weekly basis – there are currently no issues which would warrant that franchise being terminated under those contractual terms.  The Southeastern franchise does contain a provision for the contract to be extended by 2 years.  This 2 year extension is subject to a Continuation Review – where performance against pre-determined targets is assessed.  If the terms of the Continuation Review are passed, the Secretary of State will automatically offer the additional 2 years to Southeastern at the price agreed in 2005. The Secretary of State expects to notify the operator of the outcome of this review in due course.  Should Southeastern pass this Continuation Review, they will then have the option as to whether to accept that 2 year extension.

  1. Southeastern’s performance during the adverse weather has been assessed as part of a wider winter resilience review conducted by Sir David Quarmby. The Department will carefully assess the findings of Sir David’s audit of the cold weather performance of transport systems, with a view to improving future winter resilience.

 

5.   The Department is aware of the proposal to appoint Roy Coppins as a rail csar for Kent.  Mr Coppins has written to the Department with regard to this proposal and has received a response to his letter. The Department’s position on this matter is that we do not believe it is necessary to appoint a rail csar in Kent. On 14th October, the coalition Government announced the outcome of a review of Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPB’s). The outcome of this review is that 192 NDPB’s will be abolished. At a time when this Government is looking to reduce the number of quangos, we do not believe it is appropriate to give consideration to the idea to appoint a rail csar in Kent.

Passenger Focus serves as an independent public body appointed to represent the needs and protect the interests of rail passengers. The group has a strong desire to get the best deal for passengers and can lobby Train Operating Companies in order to raise any particular grievances that passengers might have. We do not believe that it is appropriate to consider appointing an independent rail csar in Kent, when organisations like Passenger Focus continue to exist with the primary aim to represent passengers and lobby operating companies for the best possible outcomes for rail passengers. 

  1. Whilst I am responding to your letter in my capacity as a Departmental official, I can inform you that both Roger Gale MP and Gordon Henderson MP have written to the Minister of State to raise the points which you have made in your email. Therefore, the points which you raise will be read by the Minister.

 

  1. Kent County Council (KCC) is free to organise rail forums. KCC has stated they have organised a series of rail forums in order to provide a clear and collective view of what they and the delegates attending these forums want from the next Kent Rail Franchise in 2012/2014. KCC plan to issue a Kent action plan to the Department at some time in late spring/early summer, setting out what they believe the priorities are for the future of rail services in Kent. Whether the current franchise expires in 2012, or 2014, Departmental officials will be seeking the views of stakeholders across Kent and South East London as part of the franchise replacement process. We will use that consultation process to shape the next contract which we let for this Franchise area. The action plan submitted by KCC will be considered as part of this process.

 

Yours sincerely,

Robert Baker

Correspondence Manager

Rail Contracts

Department for Transport

Great Minster House 3/33

76 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 2DR

robert.baker@dft.gsi.gov.uk

I encourage any rail user to contact Robert and explain how you feel about using this sorry excuse for a rail operator.

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