Thameslink rail service ranked worst in the UK for a second time in a month
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:21 18 February 2016
Tensions from frustrated commuters are at a high as a survey released today (Thursday) has ranked Thameslink as the worst train service in the UK for the second time in a month.
Driver shortages and a difficult refund procedure have left Thameslink, run by Govia, at the bottom of the Which? fifth annual rail satisfaction survey, with the company set to campaign outside the station between 7am and 9am today.
Figures also released by London TravelWatch, a watchdog for travel users in London, show that more than one in ten delayed or cancelled trains are caused by staff shortages, despite Thameslink claiming to have the biggest driver-recruitment programme in the UK.
Janet Cooke, chief executive of London TravelWatch, said: “We understand that it takes a year to train new drivers but operators promised action to address staff shortages 18 months ago and passengers waiting in the cold on platforms across London this winter will not have noticed any improvement in the situation.”
On Sunday night (14) passengers were particularly affected after more than 30 trains were cancelled or severely delayed because of staff shortages, with bus replacements allegedly not stopping at all of the stations.
One Harpenden commuter, Josephine Cumbo, of Crabtree Lane, was working in London and had to leave early to avoid the disruption because the bus replacement didn’t say it would stop at Harpenden.
She said: “I was so annoyed and outraged, it was lucky I checked. This is unacceptable and it’s the worst I have seen it. It’s also putting vulnerable people at risk because the replacement services aren’t reliable either. They didn’t say they were going to stop at Harpenden so what were people supposed to do?
“This has gone too far. People have been complaining about this for months and months and that was the worst I have ever seen it.”
Josephine contacted her MP Peter Lilley about the issue and was told that he had written to Govia and the government, but was told she could not be shown the correspondence.
She continued: “What are our politicians doing about this? I emailed Peter Lilley about this and I got response on Monday. It was three lines and that’s not adequate for me. I want to know this is being treated as urgent and serious. I want to feel satisfied that my MP is acting in my best interest.
“It’s the second biggest cost to our household and pressure needs to be applied.”
The Which? report showed that Thameslink received a 46 per cent over all customer score, which follows on from the low ranking given by the National Passenger Survey released on January 27.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “Our report shows that St Albans’ commuters are getting a raw deal from their train operator. Whether it’s dirty facilities on the train, overcrowding or delayed trains, it is clear operators need to up their game.”
A Thameslink spokesperson said: “The Which? Survey of fewer than 1,200 passenger journeys has to be seen in the context of the 1.1 million passenger journeys made on GTR every weekday.
“The recent National Rail Passenger Survey showed a much higher satisfaction rate. However, what both surveys show is there is still much to do to meet our passengers’ expectations.”
They added that since January last year they have trained 154 additional drivers and there are 271 more in training. They also said that the rebuilding of London Bridge also means that any incident quickly results in a domino effect on other services.