Reigate’s London Victoria service was withdrawn during last Saturday (2 June) to provide services for the Epsom Derby – and not because of engineering work as claimed at the time.
On the day, Govia Thamslink Railway gave out the engineering explanation on its Twitter account and website.
But Redhill station staff were offering the Derby as the reason, and the Reigate, Redhill & District Rail Users Association said on social media that they favoured that explanation.
When asked, GTR confirmed by e-mail that engineering was the cause, so reigate.uk got in touch with Network Rail to ask for details of the specific project.
That prompted Network Rail to pick up the phone to GTR: GTR then apologised, saying that carriages had been used for the Derby, and that the information it had given out had come from the National Rail Enquiries website.
In the final piece of the puzzle, Robert Nisbet, regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, which runs National Rail Enquiries, said on Friday:
“We apologise for the error that appeared on the National Rail Enquiries website, where the disruption was wrongly categorised as engineering work.
Although it is no longer displayed online, we have looked into this to prevent it happening again.”
But why take away our trains?
On the more fundamental question of why the Reigate route was picked for the carriages – bearing in mind the ongoing Thameslink disruption – a GTR spokesperson said:
“The Class 455 trains used on the Epsom route are good for metro short journeys but they are not suitable for large scale events such as the Derby. Indeed, there was a safety recommendation not to use them for this following an incident in 2011 in which passengers opened the doors and got down on to the track.
Class 377 trains used on the Redhill – Reigate service are ideal for large events.”
No other route had drivers with the correct knowledge, or the flexibility and numbers of units, the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson also said GTR had run a “good” bus service on the day between Redhill and Reigate, on top of the twice-hourly GWR trains.
On the wider cancellations which continue to frustrate rail users since the much heralded new Thameslink timetable was introduced on 20 May, the GTR spokesperson said (on Tuesday):
“We apologise sincerely for the significant disruption being experienced by passengers. Delayed approval of the timetable led to an unexpected need to substantially adjust our plans and resources in an unexpectedly short time-frame.
We are working with industry colleagues to introduce changes that will progressively deliver improvement. In the meantime, we have removed around 230 trains from the Thameslink and Great Northern timetables this week so there are fewer unplanned cancellations, allowing passengers to arrange their journeys with greater confidence.”