Thameslink train service under fire again after St Albans commuters left frustrated at driver shortages

Cllr Chris White is not happy with the Thameslink service

Cllr Chris White is not happy with the Thameslink service - Credit: Archant

Thameslink train services have come under fire after driver shortages led to numerous cancellations over the festive season.

A number of services were cancelled in the past two weeks with the train service, operated by Govia Thameslink Railway, offering ‘driver shortages’ as the excuse.

Sunday (27) was particularly badly affected with a substantial number of trains cancelled.

County and district cllr Chris White received numerous complaints in the period leading up to Christmas and has criticised Govia, which took over the Thameslink line in 2014, for their poor service.

He said: “I have been getting complaints about the deteriorating service for some days - a problem sometimes made worse by the inappropriate deployment of short trains.

“Local people pay a fortune for season tickets and travel cards but at the moment can no longer rely upon this railway to get them to their destinations.

“Thameslink have been making excuses about their lack of drivers ever since they got their franchise. But we now need the truth. Why is the problem so acute at this time of year? Is there a bug going round? Or is management failing to do what it is supposed to do and manage the rosters properly?”

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Roger Perkins, spokesperson for Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “Regrettably, due to a temporary shortage of available drivers, we have had to cancel some services over the holiday period. On Sunday this was a particular issue and we put in place a revised service.

“We advertised this widely through radio and television travel bulletins, our website, social media and emails to rail user groups and councillors, including Cllr White, with sincere apologies to our passengers.”

Roger added that they relied to some extent on drivers working rest days to cover training, sickness and annual leave, and due to the holiday season, there had been fewer drivers available.

He continued: “We are running the UK’s biggest driver recruitment and training programme to increase the number of drivers in the longer term. However, it takes a year to train each driver to the exacting safety standards demanded and we simply cannot recruit and train all those that we need in one go.”