Herts Ad Comment: Is this the end of the line for Govia Thameslink?

What do we think at the Herts Ad?

What do we think at the Herts Ad? - Credit: Archant

With the Thameslink timetable crisis showing no signs of abating as it approaches its fourth week of abject chaos, one has to wonder whether the company will ever be able to survive possibly one of the worst customer service disasters of the past few years.

Even the TSB online banking fiasco pales into insignificance when compared to the massive failings of train operator GTR and, indeed, the infrastructure company Network Rail.

The complete lack of planning ahead of the timetable switch by GTR is now evident, but is compounded by the brazen audacity which surrounded their empty promises to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in the weeks ahead of the changeover.

He told the House of Commons that GTR bosses gave him their personal assurances that they were ready to implement the switch, when this now appears to be categorically untrue, regardless of the delays created by Network Rail’s late scheduling of the timetable.

Ultimately all parties involved failed to anticipate the scale of the changes, to implement the necessary driver training, and to ensure they had contingency plans in place should things not go according to plan.

But as we have previously highlighted, it’s the response to this debacle which has worsened an already fraught situation.

The way GTR has handled this farce since the outset has been lamentable. Weak excuses, buck-passing, poor communication, non-existent crisis management and a general inability to make any sensible decisions to help their long-suffering passengers suggests those at the top are in the wrong jobs.

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It might be argued that there is no way back for Thameslink after this shameful exercise in corporate ineptitude, and the best thing for GTR to do is return the franchise to government control until a company more capable of running the service takes over.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the district we find the district council effectively being warned off after daring to include the Radlett airfield site in its long-overdue Local Plan.

Rail freight developers HelioSlough have shown their teeth after years of placid inaction, perhaps finally realising that they could potentially lose the chance to build on the site if they don’t act to thwart its inclusion in housing targets.

But if Cllr Mary Maynard really thinks it’s just an empty threat, then she needs to look back at the events of the past few decades, which have seen HelioSlough pump hundreds of thousands of pounds into the rail freight scheme in legal fees alone.

Mark my words, this is one company that isn’t going to go away without a fight.

But four years after Eric Pickles put his not insignificant weight behind a rail freight depot in Park Street, the world has moved on, and the current incompetence of Network Rail to deliver a decent timetable for that same line suggests such a scheme is no longer viable, and certainly doesn’t outweigh the need for new homes in the district.

As we enter a period of brinkmanship between SADC and HelioSlough over whether the land will end up in the Local Plan, the uncertainty which has hung over residents of Park Street for almost 20 years shows no signs of abating.