Caroline Lucas: Fines for poor rail performance should benefit passengers

Caroline Lucas has protested against the high cost of rail fares and called for railways to be brought back into public ownership
Caroline Lucas has protested against the high cost of rail fares and called for railways to be brought back into public ownership

Charges to Network Rail should be used to improve services - not handed to the treasury.

Charges levied on Network Rail should be used to improve rail services for commuters and not handed to the treasury, according to Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

In a letter to Network Rail, Ms Lucas raised concerns that a £2 million fine for poor performance on a number of lines including Southern and Thameslink, will divert funds away for passengers.

The fine was handed to Network Rail because of poor timetabling and inadequate planning for upgrades which led to severe delays on services into London Bridge.

Ms Lucas, who said Brighton residents suffer regular delays on the mainline to London, is asking that the funds are paid to the Department of Transport who can then use the money to improve services for those affected.

She said: “It would be deeply disappointing if this £2 million fine means that funds diverted away from those affected by delays and cancellations.

“Network Rail should pay the fine directly to the Department for Transport who can then use the additional money to boost spending on lines hit by delays. It would be grossly unfair to those hit by delays if this fine wasn’t used to make the services they use better.”

Normally fines levied on Network Rail are paid directly to the treasury but the Office for Rail and Roads said in its judgement on this case that “Network Rail has the opportunity to offer reparations for affected passengers, instead of having to pay the fine”.

Earlier this year, in a similar case, the Rail Minister, Claire Perry, announced that National Rail’s substantial fines for under-performance in 2014 would be spent on providing free wi-fi for certain services.

Network Rail has until September 11 to reply to the judgement from the Office for Roads and Rail.