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Southern Rail owners grilled in House of Commons after failing to run 24 trains on Tonbridge-Redhill line in one day

Southern Rail's parent company has come under fire this morning after it failed to run dozens of train services in one day.

Rail improvement group Tonbridge Line Commuters worked with Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat to reveal 24 publicised train services on the Tonbridge-Redhill line did not run on December 30.

When Mr Tugendhat questioned the service, Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway originally told him all trains had run on the day.

Southern Rail train. Picture: Gary Browne
Southern Rail train. Picture: Gary Browne

Mr Tugendhat raised the issue with rail minister Andrew Jones this morning, criticising Southern's parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Tugendhat said: "Would you join me in thanking Tonbridge Line Commuters for highlighting the problem of ghost trains on the Tonbridge to Redhill line?

"On the 30th December 36 trains were advertised, 12 ran. Could the minister do something about making sure train operating companies actually do run the trains they advertise?"

Passengers travelling on the Tonbridge-Redhill line on December 30 would not have been aware of the 24 cancelled services until they arrived at the station.

In response, Mr Jones said: "The Department for Transport monitors performance on a daily basisand there are a range of actions we can take where performance falls below agreed levels.

MP Tom Tugendhat speaking during a debate. Picture: Parliament TV
MP Tom Tugendhat speaking during a debate. Picture: Parliament TV

"I understand the performance on the Redhill to Tonbridge line has been impacted by various things including speed restrictions.

"I am able to tell my honourable friend that the line has been much improved since the start of the year, with performance now seeing 90% of services arriving within five minutes of schedule."

A spokesperson from GTR said today: "We’d like to apologise to Tom Tugendhat for passing on some inaccurate information concerning our service. This was a mistake.

"To confirm, we did have every intention of running a full service on this day, however driver availability due to sickness and leave resulted in a reduced service. We put on a bus replacement service to cover those trains that could not operate.

"Our intention is to always plan to and operate a full timetabled service.

"We’d like to apologise to customers who had their journey disrupted on December 30."

John Reynolds, chairman of Tonbridge Line Commuters said “Surely a fundamental part of being a train company is knowing what trains you’re meant to be running. GTR appears indifferent to the fact that its mismanagement of the Tonbridge-Redhill line is affecting people’s lives.

"This is an airport link and people are missing planes while GTR sits on its hands. The line must be put under new management that will promote it rather than neglect it. We are calling for services to be transferred to the South Eastern franchise and for direct links to Gatwick to be restored. Passengers deserve better."

The rail minister is due to meet with Mr Tugendhat and the Tonbridge Line Commuters group on Tuesday.

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