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23.12.14

Thameslink passengers ‘not getting service promised’

The poor performance of the new Thameslink and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise in its first months has prompted the watchdog for London travel to call for a special compensation package for passengers.

They are “not getting the service they were promised” and “have no choice but to put up with the situation”, London TravelWatch says, with a lack of drivers combined with rolling stock problems resulting in last-minute cancellations and shorter-than-advertised trains. 

Since Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) took over in September, performance problems have been rife, with day-to-day experiences far removed from the promises made in the glossy marketing literature – despite such high fares. 

Following a meeting with GTR, the DfT and Network Rail, Stephen Locke, chair of London TravelWatch, said: “We have asked [them] to agree a compensation package for all those affected by the wide-scale service disruptions over the past few weeks on each of the routes which will make up the new TSGN franchise. 

“A significant gesture is necessary now if they are to have any chance of recovering the trust and confidence of increasingly cynical commuters who, being effectively a captive market, have no choice but to put up with the situation.” 

TSGN will encompass the Southern and Gatwick Express routes from July 2015 and also includes a small number of services and stations currently operated by Southeastern, which transferred this month. 

Since GTR took over the Thameslink route from First Capital Connect in September, the franchise has been hit by a number of delays. Even on its first day of operation the contract was marred by delays

 GTR apology

A GTR spokesperson told RTM: “We apologise for the recent service on our network and in particular on Thameslink. As well as issues such as train failures which we are determined to address, there have been many problems with infrastructure, such as signal failures. 

“A general shortage of drivers has also led to cancellations. Drivers on overtime normally cover the shortfall but, on Thameslink, this has been absorbed by 900 separate days of essential training in the past three months for the new routes being taken around the London Bridge redevelopment and for new trains we are introducing which will improve reliability. 

“We are recruiting many more drivers across our network but courses take around a year to complete and we only took over the franchise in September. However, once the festive period is over the situation will improve. 

“By way of improvements, we are replacing many of our 27-year-old trains on Thameslink and there will be over 15,000 extra seats a week on Great Northern off-peak.” 

London TravelWatch added, though, that passengers have stoically accepted the inevitable service delays associated with the rebuilding of London Bridge station but, on top of this, performance and service levels have dropped significantly in recent weeks despite heavy publicity about the “passenger benefits of the new franchise”. 

Locke said: “Network Rail and the DfT must reflect on the lessons learned from what has been a frustrating start to the new franchise for passengers, to ensure that similar problems do not occur when other franchises are let.” 

Commenting on the recent meeting and calls for a compensation package, GTR told RTM that it appreciates the concerns raised by London TravelWatch. 

“Passengers have already been claiming compensation through our Delay Repay scheme if they are delayed by more than 30 minutes,” he said. 

“Also, under this new franchise, we have enhanced compensation so that passengers will be able to claim additional compensation if they are delayed to this extent 12 times or more in a four-week business period.” 

(Image: c. Andrew Matthews)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Joel   06/01/2015 at 13:38

But not a word about Southern's own staff cancellations in the run-up to Xmas? Nothing's changed with Southern - so how come no drivers etc? This is blame-throwing, and the mass media just swallow the press releases.

Eleanor   23/01/2015 at 20:54

So how do we get this compensation? I have to use thameslink everyday for work. And have done so for the past 6 months. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I can count on one hand the number of mornings that there haven't been delays. Evenings are somewhat better but more prone to entirely cancelling trains...

James   06/10/2015 at 21:13

No sign of any compensation, and if anything the situation has been deteriorating. They should be stripped of the franchise with penalties for non-delivery. I had 3 days of delayed and cancelled trains coming home from work last week alone, and then we have a massive outage again today, so 4 times between 7 return journeys, that's a less than 50% reliability level for me. How can these people be allowed to still take any profits whilst failing to deliver so miserably?

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