Hertfordshire county councillor calls for reduced but reliable weekend train service

A Hertfordshire county councillor is causing for a reduced but reliable weekend train service from G

A Hertfordshire county councillor is causing for a reduced but reliable weekend train service from Govia Thameslink. Picture: Nick Gill - Credit: Archant

Train operators Govia Thameslink have been urged to consider reducing the number of weekend rail services they offer until they have the drivers to run them.

In a meeting of the county council's growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy cabinet panel on Monday, July 1, councillors pointed to a catalogue of delayed and cancelled train services across Hertfordshire - particularly over the weekends.

They also questioned the rail company's rostering policy, that means drivers on a number of Hertfordshire routes are not contractually obliged to work on Sundays - leading to trains being cancelled if too few drivers volunteer.

Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR) stakeholder manager Patrick Ladbury told the meeting that general performance had improved since last year, but he accepted there were still problems at the weekends due to the rostering policy.

Cllr Derrick Ashley, executive member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy, said: "Why not run half the number of trains you can rely on, rather than twice the number you can't rely on?

"What people want is reliability. I would be happier to have half the number of trains at the weekend that you knew were going to turn up."

Labour Cllr Sharon Taylor, who is also leader of Stevenage Borough Council, said she did not understand a driver contract that relies on drivers working on their rest days at weekends.

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On Southern services Sundays are covered by contractual overtime, as drivers are contracted to work a minimum number of Sundays in a year, however for Thameslink and Great Northern Sundays are still covered by voluntary rest day working.

Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Govia Thameslink said: "We are very sorry that our service on Great Northern has been below the level our passengers rightly expect. Providing a reliable service is our number one priority.

"We are taking practical steps to improve service - 50 new drivers will have completed their training by this autumn adding to the 1,000 drivers we already have.

"Nine new, larger trains are already running on Great Northern, with the full fleet of 25 expected in service by the autumn.

"Passengers are reminded that they can claim delay repay compensation at www.greatnorthernrail.com if their journey is delayed for 15 minutes or more."