As a regular commuter from Medway who spends two hours a day using South Eastern trains you could say that I am probably bias when it comes to transport priorities.
South Eastern trains are used to the regular criticism by now; after inheriting a mess from the Connex franchise it was never going to be an easy journey to see improvements to a service that had been run into the ground post 1995. And don’t get me wrong; since Hatfield the money invested into rail has seen marked improvements. The trains are in general cleaner, more modern and we do carry more passengers.
I could go into a small litany of reasons why our railways have ended up where they have. I can blame the Major government for botching the privatisation, handing out poor franchises and destabilising the network. And yes, they are largely to blame. My opponents can blame the subsequent government for overseeing a massive increase in public spending to improve rail; a renewal of the private franchise model; and increasing fares to pay for the necessary improvements.
Today however the government could have acted better. It has been the choice of this government to renew the South Eastern franchise despite public opinion. It is the wrong choice.
I have consistently called for a not-for-profit franchise model to be able to bid for the contract. I have on occasion incurred the wrath of many for saying as such, but I believe we can not continue to fleece commuters as we are without a fundamental shift in both the model of franchise arrangements, and also significant improvements in redress for poor service.