I am often contacted by residents complaining about the quality of service from South West Trains. As a commuter I understand how frustrating the overcrowding can be on the early morning services, as well as the frequent disruption and ongoing signalling problems which have caused a lot of journeys to be delayed or cancelled since the New Year. A recent survey has shown that only 40% of rail users are happy with the performance of South West Trains, while the company’s management has admitted that more needs to be done to improve customer satisfaction.
With that in mind, I am pleased that Woking’s MP, Jonathan Lord, has taken up the issue of rail capacity with the Department of Transport. In a series of Parliamentary Questions, Jonathan has asked about the expected increase in passenger numbers from Woking to Waterloo over the next few years, and questioned Ministers on what additional capacity will be put in place to cope with the extra demand. Jonathan has also pressed the Government to examine in more detail some of the logistical questions that will need to be looked at if we are to increase capacity through the use of double decker trains.
The Government has said that the number of passengers on the route to London will almost double by 2050 and so serious investment is needed if our rail infrastructure is not become unaffordable or grind to a halt. The Overview & Scrutiny Committee has previously called in representatives from South West Trains to examine the barriers to bringing in extra capacity, including longer coaches and more frequent services during rush hour periods. There is some good news in that a further 100 refurbished carriages with 2,900 more seats are due to be introduced in the next few years.
Another frequent complaint involves passengers who take cycles onto peak hour trains and block seats for other rail users. Currently, passengers are forbidden from taking non-folding cycles onto trains due to arrive into London between 7am and 10am. However, this is often ignored and the guards are reluctant to challenge anyone who flouts the rules. I would encourage anyone who encounters a non-folding cycle taking up three or four seats on a crowded or peak service to report it directly to South West Trains through their Twitter account in the hope that it will encourage a more stringent enforcement of the policy.