Today, former Dartford Councillor and Labour MP for Corby, Andy Sawford introduced a bill to parliament that would allow public and mutual rail operators to bid for rail franchises and I was happy to see it progress to a second reading.
Currently the Conservative led government bans anyone but private operators bidding for franchises. This perverse rule has resulted in the not-for-profit public operator currently running the East Coast line - which has achieved record passenger satisfaction and service levels, invests it’s profits in better services and has returned over £800m to the taxpayer - being prevented from continuing to provide that service in order to allow a private operator to take over.
Andy’s bill is important for rail passengers here in Dartford. We continue to put up with the failing performance of the Southeastern franchise – consistently ranked as one of the country's poorest train operators. Expensive fares, delays and cancellations and poor customer satisfaction have contributed to years of frustration for passengers.
We shouldn’t have to put up with it. However, instead of holding Southeastern to account, Dartford’s MP Gareth Johnson and his Conservative colleagues decided to reward them with a new contract – meaning Dartford is stuck with Southeastern until 2018. Dartford deserves better than an MP that puts the interests of train bosses before passengers.
We need a real fresh start. We need a railway which puts passengers first, not profits. That’s why I support Andy Sawford’s bill and why today Labour MPs delivered more for Dartford’s rail users in a single day than our own Conservative MP – who didn’t vote today - has achieved in four years. If elected Dartford’s MP next year, I’ll join them to work to for the rail service that Dartford and the country needs and deserves.