Thameslink says ‘sorry’ to St Albans commuters for train failures

Thameslink train

Thameslink train - Credit: Archant

Thameslink has apologised to St Albans commuters after they complained of trains constantly breaking down, including state-of-the-art additions to the fleet.

Lawrence Griffiths, of St Albans, said there was a “near-daily occurrence of Thameslink train breakdowns.

“There were 15 separate train breakdowns in August. On August 14 it happened twice in one day, and September has had an equally bad start.”

He said that his wife was recently ‘stuck’ on a train but it was proving difficult to ascertain why such problems were occurring, as information was rarely forthcoming while travelling with the service.

Lawrence said, however, that some drivers were reporting issues with doors on the new Siemens-built Class 700 trains.

These 12-carriage trains were hailed as a milestone in the government-sponsored Thameslink programme, and the “future of commuting” when they made their first outing on rail tracks in November last year during a test run, ahead of going into passenger service in spring this year.

Lawrence said that: “Often these breakdowns cause the whole line to be blocked. It’s causing real misery to commuters and day-trippers alike.

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“My partner commutes daily as do many friends.”

He admits he has “ranted and sworn” at Thameslink on Twitter “after my partner was held captive on broken down trains on three separate nights in nearly as many days.

“I travel at least once a week for business meetings, but have started to use the car more often as even the M25 is more reliable than Thameslink.”

Lawrence has written about the problem to St Albans MP Anne Main, who replied that she has been raising the “very poor rail service that my constituents have received from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) both locally and in parliament for some time and I would like to assure you that it is a matter I am taking extremely seriously.

“Constituents have been contacting me for some time, who have had unacceptable experiences both as a commuter, or an occasional traveller, with staff shortages, repeated cancellations or delays, short (train carriage) formations and mechanical problems.

“I do believe we should have seen some positive change by now.”

Roger Perkins, media relations manager for GTR, confirmed there had been issues with the train service.

He added: “We are sorry to any of our passengers who have been delayed on their journey. We’re frustrated because these longer Class 700 trains have already begun to deliver capacity improvements for our passengers.”

Roger said the Class 700 trains “are the first of a totally new design and have been extensively tested in Germany”.

But, he added, “with any new piece of equipment or technology and especially one as advanced as this train, it is always anticipated there will be an element of teething troubles and familiarity issues once entry into service commences.

“Testing can’t always replicate the day-to-day demands of passenger service – hence our phased roll-out of the new trains to manage this.”

Roger added: “Siemens and GTR are working hard to address the root cause of the issues encountered and build the reliability of this fleet.

“We have put in place a focused performance improvement team who are working hard on delivering improvements.”