Rail bosses face grilling from MP over Preston Park cuts

Caroline Lucas with campaigners at Preston Park station SUS-180913-101026001
Caroline Lucas with campaigners at Preston Park station SUS-180913-101026001

A decision to cut rail services from Preston Park station was based on ‘deeply flawed data’, a Brighton MP said.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, took rail bosses to task last week over a 30 per cent cut in services stopping at the station.

She said the decision was made using ticket sale data, but that no-one had counted commuters on station platforms or on trains. This meant the decision to scrap services from Preston Park was ‘based on deeply flawed data’, she said.

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Ms Lucas said tickets cost the same price from Brighton or Hove so are rarely recorded as Preston Park passengers, and there are no barriers at the station, so passengers can’t be counted that way.

Meeting with rail bosses last week, the MP called for urgent improvements, including the reinstatement of Gatwick Express services.

She said: “It should never have taken months and months of campaigning for commuters to finally be told where responsibility for their misery lies.

“Govia Thameslink (GTR), Network Rail and the Department for Transport (DfT) are keenly aware of the distress they caused with May’s timetable chaos and it’s vital they change their processes to prevent future problems.

“But for the rail operators to delay fixing the fallout simply to comply with those new rules is completely unreasonable. The situation at Preston Park is exceptional and a ‘computer says no’ attitude is unacceptable. Rail bosses and their Ministers should be bending over backwards to clean up this mess and take immediate action to restore Gatwick Express services.”

A spokesperson for rail operator Govia Thameslink said: “Gatwick Express services are intended to be premium airport services from the major centres of London and Brighton. They no longer stop at Preston Park to allow enough capacity to increase Thameslink services for commuters.

“The changes planned for May’s new timetable were based on a review of Office for Rail & Road passenger number data at stations across the route, including Preston Park, train loadings and the responses to an extensive public consultation.

“Additional manual passenger counts were made at certain stations where responses from our public consultation suggested the number of services due to be provided under the new timetable might be insufficient. Preston Park was not one of those stations.

“However, now that the local commuter group has raised concerns we are happy to review this further and have met twice with both the commuter group and Ms Lucas.”