Passengers meet with Govia Thameslink and Network Rail representatives in St Albans to raise concerns about train services
PUBLISHED: 16:55 21 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:59 21 October 2016
A grievance-airing session involving passengers and representatives of train and rail companies has led St Albans MP Anne Main to express the hope that there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
She chaired last Thursday’s meeting in St Albans council chamber which was attended by representatives of both GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) and Network Rail.
It was an opportunity for commuters, in particular, to raise concerns about the levels of service they were experiencing and covered a range of issues including Sunday driver cover, the London Bridge remodelling project, the footbridge at St Albans City station, train capacity and communication and on-train announcements.
Mrs Main said: “Govia and Network Rail werre full and frank about the challenges they face and I believe that they got the message from commuters loud and clear.
“The meeting was very representative. A broad range of problems and issues that passengers experience on a daily basis were fully discussed.”
Prior to the meeting, the MP learned that an improved compensation scheme would be rolled out first on the Thameslink line, enabling passengers to claim back 25 per cent of their fare if their train was delayed over 15 minutes.
Describing the announcement from the Department for Transport as a ‘much-needed improvement’, she said: “Commuters were saying to me that it was unfair that they could only claim compensation when their train was over 30 minutes late.”
On the issue of Sunday cover, the meeting heard that it was currently provided on a voluntary basis which put constraints on driver availability. It was an inherited position that GTR wanted to improve on.
The meeting also heard GTR confirm that they were hoping to announce plans for a new footbridge to ease congestion at St Albans City Station where a £5 million station refurbishment is proposed to increase entrance and exit capacity, especially on the platform four side.
Govia management will be reviewing potential safety issues relating to the footbridge in the evening rush hour in coming weeks and additional crowd management measures are to be introduced later this week.
The train operator confirmed that it was making improvements to ticket machines in the station and had made good progress on the teething problems associated with the new Siemens trains.
In addition it pledged to implement a ‘significant culture change’ in coming months to improve its communication and customer service.
Afterwards, Mrs Main said: “A lot has come out of the meeting. Passengers tell me that they want to see improvements and what GTR were offering was light at the end of the tunnel.
“I understand that some progress has been made. It’s now up to Thameslink to deliver on these.”
* Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden has questioned in the House of Commons why GTR cancelled a service from St Albans to Wimbledon last week because graffiti was discovered on the side of a train.
The service was terminated at Blackfriars last Wednesday, October 12, after the graffiti was seen and felt to be offensive. Hundreds of passengers were decanted from the train.
Describing the decision as absurd, Mr Dowden said the company should focus on getting passengers to work and home in time rather than cancelling services when they discovered graffiti they deemed to be offensive.
Thameslink said the train was taken out of service because a sexually offensive slogan had been painted below two large windows.
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