Passengers, campaigners and politicians are all calling for a fix for the latest rail fiasco.
The much-heralded new Thameslink timetable was introduced on 20 May, supposedly an improvement on the service that passengers have endured since Thameslink upgrade works began in 2014.
However, since the new schedule started, weekday services have been plagued with short-notice cancellations, and last weekend saw “the total collapse of Thameslink south of London”, in the words of the Reigate, Redhill & District Rail Users’ Association (RRDRUA).
“Southern” services to London Victoria have been more reliable, but, under the new timetable, Thameslink services running via London Bridge are scheduled to make up the majority of Redhill-London trains.
– Gatwick to Bedford (via Redhill) and
– Horsham to Peterborough
Devastation for our commuters today. Why is it our patch? #railplan2020
— Reigate & Redhill District Rail Users Association (@RRDRUA) 30 May 2018
Who’s to blame?
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates both Southern and Thameslink services under a management contract for the DfT: the National Audit Office said in January that the DFT had made £760 million (net) on the deal since September 2014.
Stephen Trigg of RRDRUA told the BBC on Wednesday that he thought the current problems were the result of of GTR’s original bid only containing a slim management team, and the acceptance of this by the DfT because it was cheap. He called for more money to be put into the network to address the problems.
Crispin Blunt, (Conservative) MP for Reigate, said yesterday that GTR and Network Rail hadn’t had the resources necessary for such a timetable change, adding that GTR also still had an insufficient number of trained drivers for the new routes.
Mr Blunt said that the disruption was affecting the “lives, careers and families” of constituents:
“Government cannot just sit back and let this happen.
This is an emergency which needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.”
Meanwhile, Chris Grayling MP, the transport secretary, has criticised GTR and Network Rail for how they handled the change, the BBC reports.
For its part, GTR said in a statement earlier this week:
“We apologise to passengers for the continued disruption linked to the introduction of the new timetable.
We are working on a recovery plan with rail industry partners.
Meanwhile, as late notice changes continue to be made, we ask passengers to check train times on the day of travel.
We expect disruption to ease over the coming month.”
Network Rail told the BBC that although late timetable changes hadn’t helped, there were a number of causes to the problems which they were looking into.
Reigate.uk also asked GTR about trains that are simply disappearing from platform screens (or online planners) without information that they have been cancelled. A GTR spokesperson said:
“The station information screens now show only what is running.
This prevents services from being pushed off our station passenger information screens by preceding cancelled trains, all of which helps passengers see what is running.
This also allows us to let passengers know at the beginning of the day which trains are being removed from the timetable, with far fewer services cancelled shortly before they are due to run.”
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