Rail passengers suffer delays and cancellations on busy commuter line


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The Independent Online

Rail passengers on one of the busiest commuter lines faced delays and cancellations today because of emergency engineering works.

The Brighton to London main line was affected after train services were disrupted between Gatwick Airport and East Croydon due to the emergency works between the airport and Horley.

The disruption has hit Southern, First Capital Connect and First Great Western services. Gatwick Express was also running to a reduced half-hourly service.

A Southern spokeswoman said the emergency engineering work had affected rail services between Gatwick Airport and East Croydon since around 8am. An earlier signalling problem in the area also affected some services.

She said the lines were reopened at around 11am but warned that passengers would still face delays as services returned to normal.

"We have all the tracks now but things are in the wrong place. It will (the delays) come down during the day," she said.

A First Capital Connect spokesman said the delays were affecting services between Brighton and Bedford.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We had to undertake some emergency engineering work this morning near Gatwick.

"We appreciate people's patience in bearing with us while we carried out the work.

"In all cases, we take safety very seriously on the railway and therefore we had to take this action."

Meanwhile, rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus met officials of train company London Midland today over the company's driver shortage that has affected services recently.

David Sidebottom, passenger director at Passenger Focus, said: "London Midland has improved the information available to passengers and we are glad that they were willing to work with us to try to improve the situation.

"We are encouraging the company to go further and to be flexible with the way they compensate those who have been affected."

He went on: "The 'delay repay' compensation payments kick in once the passenger is 30 minutes late arriving at their destination.

"But if you're delayed by 28 or 29 minutes, or even less on a regular basis, the inconvenience can be as great, so we are pushing for a more fair and reasonable interpretation of the rules while this problem is sorted out. We would also like to see a compensation payment to season ticket holders, on top of delay repay." Passenger Focus said it welcomed the company's work with bus providers to make sure that passengers weren't left stranded, and is keen to see this arrangement made formal rather than organised on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Sidebottom added: "London Midland must keep up the flow of information and make certain that staff are on hand to help passengers.

"It must also do everything possible to arrange alternative travel plans - ensuring that it doesn't further strain passengers' patience."

A First Capital Connect spokesman said a normal service of four trains an hour was running between Brighton and Bedford but there were still expected delays of up to 30 minutes.