Rail commuters at ‘wits’ end’ over cuts to Preston Park services

Green MP Caroline Lucas
Green MP Caroline Lucas

Green MP Caroline Lucas is to question the rail minister over ‘chaos’ at Preston Park Railway Station, where rail services have been cut at peak times.

And she said his claim that services between London and Preston Park had improved ‘went down like a cup of cold sick’ with commuters.

Preston Park station (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

Preston Park station (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

In a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament today (July 24), the Brighton Pavilion MP will tell the minister Jo Johnson of the hundreds of constituents who have contacted her ‘literally at their wits’ end’.

Ms Lucas said cuts to services at the station have led to dangerous overcrowding, resulted in commuters fearing for their jobs and left parents unable to collect their children from school.

Gatwick Express trains, which have called at Preston Park for 10 years, no longer stop there at all. Services that do stop now collect passengers at 11 other stations before reaching Preston Park – which means they are often full on arrival.

The line is also plagued by cancellations. Analysis by the MP shows that since July 16, 63 per cent of Preston Park services were either delayed or cancelled.

But Mr Johnson wrote to Ms Lucas on July 12 suggesting that services from Preston Park to Victoria had actually improved.

He said: “Scheduled journey times have in fact improved since the timetable change, with the average morning peak journey time being around a minute quicker.”

Ms Lucas said: “This ongoing fiasco is leading to dangerous overcrowding and distress. Preston Park commuters are literally at their wits’ end and it was no surprise to me – given the daily messages of distress that fill my inbox – that in just five days, 1,098 people signed the petition I presented to the House of Commons last Tuesday calling for the restoration of services.

“I am here to explain, again, to the Minister why his suggestion that Preston Park services to Victoria are more frequent and faster has gone down like a cup of cold sick with Preston Park commuters.

“Gatwick Express services must be reinstated at Preston Park and more trains need to start from Brighton and have enough carriages to meet demand.”

One constituent who wrote to Ms Lucas said: “I commute from Preston Park to London Bridge. The trains are cancelled and delayed more than they run on time.

“I spend the (standing) journey fretting as I’m late for work. I spend the journey home fretting as my child has one parent – me – and I’m left stranded 70 miles away.”

Today, Ms Lucas is set to ask the rail minister to: reinstate Gatwick Express trains; ensure all trains to and from Preston Park have adequate capacity when passengers board; ensure gaps in peak time services are no longer than 15 minutes; invest in the station; and provide trains fit for commuting.

She will also ask him a question from a constituent: “How do you expect people to be able to run lives, collect children, arrive for NHS, police, rail and other security shifts, be punctual for meetings, keep businesses viable?”

For more transport news, click here.