North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, has challenged the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, to travel on the Kent Coast line between Thanet and London and to witness the conditions of service for herself.
Speaking during a Commons Debate on the performance of Network Rail the MP said:
"The Secretary of State may make light of the New Year price increases but commuters from East Kent to London have faced a massive hike in their fares and they feel that with trains shorter, overcrowded and with poor timekeeping they are paying more for less.
I would like to invite the Secretary of State to join me on the train from Thanet to London where I will do my best to guarantee her personal safety".
Responding, Ruth Kelly said that she did not need to travel on these trains to understand the problem.
"Commuters are very angry indeed" said Roger Gale after the exchange. "South East Trains are charging more, passengers are faced with the prospect of a reduction in the number of trains to Cannon Street and Victoria and higher fares to St Pancras necessitating a waste of more time and money spent on underground trains to get from the terminus to work. I suspect that if the Secretary of State did face travellers on the morning trains I would have to work hard to protect her".
Since the New Year some trains have been shorter, leading to overcrowding, and have been running late. Network Rail still have to carry out repairs to prevent water entering Herne Bay station before South East can begin work to refurbish the station and the train operator is now claiming that in spite of door locking systems that are designed to prevent passengers from leaving trains outside platforms they cannot run train sets that are longer than the platforms at the stops.
With passengers paying more for the pleasure of standing or sitting on the floor and arriving late feelings are running high and there are already calls for senior management at South East and Network Rail to be replaced.
"The Rail Regulator will be conducting an enquiry into the West Coast Main Line fiasco" says Roger Gale " but on past form no executive or ministerial heads will roll. This is a "NotMeGov" administration that does not take responsibility and you can bet that the Secretary of State will not carry the can for the failure of its re-nationalised service".