Hassocks rail ‘shambles’ raised by MP in House of Commons

MP Nick Herbert speaking in the Westminster Hall debate on June 19. Picture: Michelle Taylor
MP Nick Herbert speaking in the Westminster Hall debate on June 19. Picture: Michelle Taylor

South Downs MP Nick Herbert demanded to know when the timetable ‘shambles’ would come to end when he called a Commons debate on rail services in Hassocks.

Mr Herbert also raised the loss of direct peak-time trains from Hassocks to Clapham Junction in the new timetable, calling for the services to be restored, and he repeated his concerns to Nick Brown, GTR’s chief operating officer at a meeting in the House of Commons.

Mr Brown undertook to review the loss of the service, while the rail minister, Jo Johnson, said he would ‘go back to Network Rail and GTR’ to check that their underlying assumptions, which formed the basis of the timetable changes, were ‘realistic’.

Introducing the debate in Westminster Hall, Mr Herbert said: “A large number of people use the rail service from Hassocks in my constituency, and the minister knows that they are very angry indeed.

“Just as it looked as though we might be moving towards a steadier state for rail services in West Sussex, which over the past two years have been absolutely dismal, we have serious disruption again.”

Although more direct services to Victoria and London Bridge have been introduced, four direct peak time morning trains from Hassocks have been axed.

The MP said that between 245 and 312 Hassocks services had been cancelled every week since the timetable was introduced.

He read an e-mail from a ‘despairing’ Hurstpierpoint resident who said it was ‘totally unacceptable for people to be standing on a train service at 6.30am’.

Mr Herbert agreed, pointing out that steam trains in 1905 provided a direct service from Hassocks to London in just one hour 17 minutes.

He quipped that it was probably a more reliable service than the ‘chaotic, shambolic, disrupted, withdrawn and cancelled services that they are facing now’.

Mr Herbert called for greater accountability for the recent disruption, and a ‘modern, sharper form of compensation system that is better than delay repay’.

He said: “It is important for [the minister] to understand just how angry our constituents are now about this perpetually bad service and how despairing they are that there seems to be no end to it.

“They just want a normal, reliable rail service. In the 21st century, is that really too much to ask?”