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MP Duddridge: Avoid return to Misery Line
COMMUTERS fear a return to the dark days when the London Fenchurch Street to Southend line was commonly known as the Misery Line.
Tory MP James Duddridge is worried the Government will fail to veto the use of old trains when it decides on the Essex Thameside rail franchise.
Mr Duddridge used PM’s Question time to call for reassurances that firms bidding for the London Fenchurch Street to Southend line, currently operated by c2c, will not be able to bring in old, dilapidated trains without air-conditioning to help cope with peak-time travellers.
The terms of the tender, drawn up by the Department for Transport, do not stipulate that rolling stock must be modern and comfortable. This could mean, in order to present the Government with financially attractive bids, companies may resort to using superannuated carriages at the busiest times.
This would enable them to keep up punctuality targets while keeping costs down – at the expense of commuters.
Calling for a debate on the future of the line, Mr Duddridge, the MP for Rochford and Southend East, said: “We could well see our new rolling stock replaced with non air-conditioned trains and that would be a bizarre and appalling situation. I want to put pressure on the Government early to make sure the people tendering for the line do not even consider using inferior rolling stock.
“I have been told that old, 315 trains are being considered. They are very much like those used on the Liverpool Street line, which are hot and dirty.”
The MP added: “This may be much better value for the Government, but Southend would suffer. We have a new airport, good c2c line and a new university. Everything is looking positive, but this would be a real blow for business and people looking to relocate here.
“I want to send a very clear message to all of the bidders, I and all of the local MPs will not tolerate old rolling stock going back on the line.”
Speaking in the Commons Mr Duddridge called for a full debate on the future of the line.
He said: “Specifically, can the Government give my commuter constituents reassurance that good rolling stock will not be replaced with old, dirty rolling stock without air conditioning?”
Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Lansley, said: “The choice of rolling stock is a matter for the franchisee, but it must meet the franchise conditions. The competition to which my Honourable Friend refers is, of course, live, so I shall not make any further comment on the bids.”
The companies bidding for the line, c2c, First, MTL and Abelio, are due to submit their tenders by September 27. A spokesman for c2c said none of the companies are permitted to speak about the process.