Mums unite in protest at shameful state of Thameslink service
PUBLISHED: 12:28 14 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:28 14 December 2016
Local parents have sent a strong message to Thameslink bosses that their 'shameful' service is affecting families, who are spending less time together as a consequence of constant delays.
Harking back to the fiery Suffragettes of over a century ago, weary and fed-up commuters dubbing themselves the ‘Train Suffererjettes’ held an early morning protest outside St Albans City Station on Monday (12) to show that ‘enough is enough’.
The group was joined by youngsters Phoebe and Margo Bortone bearing signs pleading: “Dear Thameslink please stop cancelling my bedtime story”, and, “All I want for Christmas is a train that works.”
Their mum, Laura-Jane Bortone, told the Herts Advertiser: “I commute into London four days a week with Thameslink, and the commute is horrendous. There are delays on a daily basis.
“We thought, at the end of summer, that it would get better, because Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said it was bringing in longer trains, but it has got worse.”
To ensure she reaches work in time, Laura-Jane has to ensure she arrives two hours in advance at the station, to cope with delays.
That situation, she says, is just not good enough: “People are talking about moving away from St Albans - mums especially. I regularly don’t get to put the kids to bed, which is soul destroying.
“When there are delays you have to fork out extra money for child care, and also pay extra for taxi fares. There are other mums saying the same thing - it affects people financially too.”
She said Monday’s protest was to put pressure on GTR to provide a proper service at a reasonable price, “especially after the recent news of the 2.3 per cent fare increase, which quite frankly is shameful.
“St Albans commuters are no longer willing to sit back. They have had enough of paying for an extortionate yet substandard service. It’s pretty clear everyone feels enough is enough.
“Commuters feel powerless, so we wanted to have our voices heard. We started this group, the St Albans Train Suffererjettes with the support of local mums. We have written to our MPs, and they said they understood, but they should be doing more, by working within government to make sure fares are cut.”
St Albans district councillor, and regular commuter Simon Grover, who attended the protest, said that local families were being detrimentally affected by spending long hours travelling, or, in some cases, residents “getting fired” because they were struggling to arrive at work in the capital in time.
He said: “People are beyond fed up. I think people who live in St Albans are being hard done by.”
Local county councillor Sandy Walkington, also at the ‘brilliantly named Suffererjettes protest’, said: “Many of those protesting are female commuters making the particular point that train delays and cancellations play expensive havoc with childcare arrangements. They just want the service they are paying for.”
He said it was clear that “problems were likely to continue in the near term due to driver shortages, track closures at London Bridge and teething problems with the new Siemens Class 700 trains.
“None of these is the fault of the poor long-suffering passengers and they should be properly compensated, not just through the Delay Repay service, but a proper and substantial fare cut until the advertised service can be delivered.”
Roger Perkins, responding for Thameslink, said: “We know services have not been good enough and would like to reassure passengers we are working hard to make them better.
“We are in the middle of massive improvements that will transform the railway but they do make it very difficult to run a punctual railway. The reconstruction of London Bridge will remove a bottleneck to let us run more services to relieve overcrowding but while the work’s going on it’s caused a massive increase in knock-on delays across the network.”
He added: “We have to recruit and train more drivers for the new trains we’re bringing in and our suppliers are working on ways to improve their reliability.
“In the meantime, we now have compensation available for anyone delayed by 15 minutes or more instead of the former 30 minutes, which the people in Elstree and Borehamwood, Radlett and St Albans have been calling for for years.”