Thameslink in crisis as rail operator Govia fails to improve service
- Credit: Archant
Complaints flooding in from angry Thameslink commuters have been taken to the highest level as St Albans residents continue to suffer daily train cancellations and delays.
The rail service has become so bad that St Albans MP Anne Main and transport watchdog London TravelWatch have taken up the cudgels on behalf of fed-up commuters to lodge concerns with the Department for Transport and the Transport Secretary.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) took over the franchise from First Capital Connect and began running the Bedford to Brighton service on September 14.
Mrs Main, who has received many complaints from locals, said she was disappointed with the continued underperformance of the new service as, “it’s simply unacceptable for commuters to experience constant delays.”
She told the Herts Advertiser: “GTR has taken a step backwards. Even their website is rubbish.”
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In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, the MP said “very little positive change” has been made by Thameslink.
Mrs Main called upon him to outline actions that could be taken to improve the service.
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Commuters too have taken action.
About 1,400 people have signed an online petition calling for Thameslink to be forced to improve its service.
The petition’s creator said that while GTR won the bid by “vowing to cut costs, it appears they have done this by reducing staff and foregoing essential maintenance work.
“Every day, trains are delayed due to staff shortages and broken down trains. This company should not be allowed to continue providing such terrible service.”
Commuter and chairman of St Albans district council’s local services committee, Cllr Anthony Rowlands, said train conditions “are awful”.
He explained: “Personal observation and comments from friends are of understandable frustration and greater tetchiness as travellers are crammed onto already overcrowded trains.”
GTR recently admitted to the committee that it needed 666 train drivers, but only has 611.
A spokeswoman for the firm has apologised for its service, adding there were many issues to address including problems with infrastructure such as signal failures.
She said: “Once the festive period is over the situation will improve.”
The Herts Advertiser understands that GTR has 62 people training to become drivers, who will finish their courses between now and August, and a further 89 will be recruited.
Training takes more than a year.
The first of 29 new air-conditioned trains have started to arrive on the Thameslink route and will be steadily rolled out on the Bedford to Brighton route.
To sign the online petition see: epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/72455w