I am campaigning to improve local train services. Our local infrastructure connects communities and helps make Runnymede such a great place to live, work and run a business. Our rail services are a vital part of this, offering easy access to London and the rest of the UK while also reducing the number of cars on our roads.
Yet too often what is offered it not matched by local delivery. From poor connections between mainline and branch line services, accessibility issues, with the Weybridge lifts the least reliable on the SWR network, to delays and disruption to services, such as the reduced service operated for weeks at the start of the year. Local commuters and all those who rely on the network deserve better.
I am therefore campaigning to improve local train services. I regularly engage with South Western Railway when issues arise and have been pressing for improved timetabling to ensure sensible connections at Weybridge and Virginia Water. In response to the repeated issues with Weybridge lifts I have raised this at every level, including with the Transport Secretary, to press for action to ensure rail access for all passengers. I have secured a commitment from the Department for Transport to monitor local services, and consider formal action against SWR should services not improve.
Ticket office closure plans
Residents will be aware of current proposals from the Rail Delivery Group and South Western Railways to close all local ticket offices. I know many constituents have concerns over these plans, many of which I share. To reflect your views, and gain a greater understanding of local rail use, I have created a local survey asking for your views, which you can access here Survey on Ticket Office Closure Plans | Dr Ben Spencer MP.
The consultation on these plans is open until 1 September. Further details are available here.
In 2021, the Williams Review of British railways, commission by the Government, found that “too often railways are not getting the basics right”. This is evident in the issues and concerns reported to me on a regular basis by residents, and from my own experience as a frequent rail passenger.
In response the Government announced plans to reform the way our rail network operates and creating a new public body, Great British Railways, which will bring together many of the current segmented elements of our railways. This body will own the infrastructure, run and plan the network, organise the timetables, and set most fares.
The reforms will also replace the franchise system with new passenger service contracts, similar to those used to run London buses and the London overground; and reform and upgrade the fares system.
Legislation will be introduced in the next parliamentary session to deliver this, and the Minister informed me of the work already ongoing to prepare for these changes and implement service improvements across the network. I was reassured that the Minister stated the Department for Transport will continue to monitor local maintenance and service levels.
I will continue to campaign for improvements to local services and work with Ministerial colleagues to deliver for our residents.