Leighton Buzzard's MP calls for urgent debate on 'abysmal' rail service

Leighton Buzzard train station. Credit: Google Maps.
Leighton Buzzard train station. Credit: Google Maps.

The ongoing suffering of Leighton Buzzard commuters as a result of the “abysmal” performance by train operator  London Northwestern Railway has been raised in Parliament.

South West Bedfordshire MP, Andrew Selous, himself a regular commuter on the line, has called for a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, in the wake of the poor service being regularly experienced.

Speaking in the House of Commons at Business Questions on Thursday, Mr Selous, asked: “May we also have a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport, as well as an urgent debate, on London Northwestern Railway, whose recent performance has been abysmal, as it is severely affecting the mental wellbeing of many of those who travel on it?”

The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, replied: “There is a great commonality of feeling across the House about rail services. Rail companies need to deliver, and to ensure that people have the service that they need and that trains run broadly on time.

“The franchising system is being changed and the railway will be improved with an investment of £48 billion, the largest since the Victorian era, which I know many Members think is relatively recent but which was actually well over 100 years ago.

“There is also a £4.2 billion local public transport fund to enable city regions to upgrade their buses, trains and trams so that they are as good as those in London.

“This will help every part of the country, and it involves a very, very large amount of money, but I absolutely recognise the problems that are currently affecting constituents across the country.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Selous said: “I am a London Northwestern Railway commuter myself, so I know how extremely difficult life has been for commuters on this route in recent months.

“It is very expensive to travel on the train every day into London and it is not acceptable that people have such a poor service or even a non-existent service at times.

“I am seeking a meeting with the Minister of State for Transport and to raise these concerns at greater length in Parliament.”

Indeed, many residents have felt frustrated with the service over the past months.

In May, LNR introduced a new timetable with “more peak services, increased capacity and both earlier and later departures from London Euston throughout the week”.

LNR hoped that changes would benefit passengers travelling for work and leisure – including those using rail services during evenings and weekends.

However, some residents strongly disagreed, and in an update the LBO ran in October, it was claimed that on a daily basis trains were either late, short, or cancelled.

Recent tweets from commuters are also backing up Mr Selous’s allegations.

One message from a commuter said: “@LNRailway. An appalling start to the New Year. Increase in fares and yet another 4 car train on a rush hour train from #LeightonBuzzard. I have travelled on this line for over thirty years and the service has NEVER been so poor until the last few month s and since #LNRailway.”

Jonny Wiseman, head of customer experience for London Northwestern Railway, said: “We are working hard to make the travelling experience better for our customers at Leighton Buzzard and across the wider network.

“We recognise the timetable we introduced in May 2019 did not work as intended and we have compensated our passengers by discounting season tickets while we improve our performance.

“We have recently brought in 16 extra carriages on our West Coast Main Line routes and made a number of changes to our timetable to increase capacity and improve performance.

“Further timetable changes and the introduction of more new carriages across the network will follow later this year.”