Rail row flares as Labour challenger slams Hitchin MP’s ‘outside interests’

Rachel Burgin campaigning for lower rail fares at Hitchin railway station last month.

Rachel Burgin campaigning for lower rail fares at Hitchin railway station last month. - Credit: Archant

A political row has flared after Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate accused Hitchin’s MP of being too busy to help his constituents due to work interests outside Parliament.

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley.

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley. - Credit: Archant

The spat started when Peter Lilley MP met executives from under-fire rail company Govia Great Northern – which runs train lines through North Herts from London King’s Cross – to discuss their future plans and the repeated delays long-suffering commuters have endured since it took over the First Capital Connect franchise.

Mr Lilley said: “I have received anguished complaints from constituents since the autumn about the poor service provided on the local network.

“I have met with senior managers from Govia – who took over the running of this service last September – to try to get to the bottom of this issue and urge them to find solutions as quickly as possible.

“Govia showed their performance in terms of the percentage of trains arriving at their terminating station on time on Great Northern since they took over in September 2014 has been somewhat better than the corresponding period last year.

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“However, it was still much below the months preceding their franchise.

“I expressed amazement that performance during winter months should be so affected by seasonal factors like leaves on the line.

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“In the 21st century it must be possible to find technological solutions to these predictable problems.”

But Rachel Burgin, who will be fighting the Hitchin & Harpenden seat for Labour in May’s general election, said: “It’s a bit rich for Peter Lilley to portray himself as a ‘hardworking constituency MP’ fewer than three months before the general election when I’ve been campaigning on transport issues at the crack of dawn and out knocking on doors in all weathers since my selection 11 months ago.

“Where’s Mr Lilley been for the last five years when hard-working Hitchin commuters have had to face above inflation fare rises year-on-year, while travelling in dilapidated rolling stock which needs updating?

“Quite frankly, I’m surprised he’s found the time to issue such proclamations when he has so many other jobs outside Parliament including in the oil industry in Kazakhstan and in China.

“The majority of MPs are visible in their local community – the people of Hitchin deserve better.”

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