England

Train bosses to be quizzed about 'joke' Southern services

Southern train Image copyright PA
Image caption Southern operates services between London, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Kent

Railway bosses are to be quizzed about train services in the South East which were branded an "appalling joke" by MPs.

Several MPs are to put their concerns to Southern and Network Rail at a transport task force meeting.

Southern was severely criticised before Christmas after passengers faced major delays because of signal faults.

The operator said services had been hit by infrastructure and train problems and staffing issues.

At the time, it apologised "for the level of service" passengers had experienced but said it was "working very hard on the prevention of further issues".

'Missing flights'

Commuters in the South East have also suffered months of disruption because of rebuilding work at London Bridge.

Conservative Maria Caulfield, who represents Lewes, said the meeting on 18 January would give the region's MPs a chance to question Network Rail and Southern about the situation.

"As it is in the first few weeks of the new year we'll be able to see what improvements they've made."

Ms Caulfield, tweeted that it was "almost quicker to fly to space station by rocket than get home to Lewes by train" the day after British astronaut Tim Peake took six-and-a-half hours to reach the International Space Station.

She told the BBC constituents were missing flights from Gatwick and important meetings because of problems on the network.

Southern services were also branded "an appalling joke" in parliament on 17 December by Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna, and criticised by Reigate's Conservative MP Crispin Blunt.

In May, figures from the Office of Rail and Road revealed a fifth of trains operated by Southern did not meet arrival time targets.

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