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Lack of modelling threatens GTR performance after timetable changes

The new Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) timetable, to be introduced on 13 December, could worsen its performance even further due to a lack of adequate modelling and planning, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has said.

In its quarterly Network Rail Monitor report, the regulator said the timetable, which will make significant changes to off-peak services across the franchise, is an emerging concern.

Although Network Rail has provided evidence to satisfy a number of concerns, the ORR remains worried by the lack of performance modelling and evidence of post-implementation contingency planning.

It will continue to press Network Rail on these issues to minimise the potential for further service disruption.

But a GTR spokesperson told RTM: “Performance modelling by Network Rail has been carried out and it shows there will be better punctuality on Brighton Main Line Southern and Thameslink services as a result of the changes in the new December timetable, which will also help us recover the service more readily when there are delays.

“This will be welcomed by passengers who have been experiencing a prolonged period of poor punctuality, much of which is a result of congestion on the Brighton Mainline and the added effect of improvement work at London Bridge.”

Similarly, a Network Rail spokesperson added: “All timetables have to balance the needs of different services - from metro trains, to long distance and freight. Performance modelling is an important part of examining that balance and Network Rail is working with operators in the south east on reviewing the results of the modelling before the timetable goes live on December 13.”

GTR, the largest single franchise in the UK, has been in the spotlight in recent months for its consistently poor performance, bad even by the lower standards of London & South East commuter franchises. Its punctuality figures have been on a downturn according to both the ORR’s and Network Rail’s figures.

Last month, the regulator’s PPM figures showed that GTR recorded the worst quarterly punctuality for the routes it runs in over a decade, at just 84%.

The operator also had the steepest fall in its PPM figure this past quarter compared with last year, the lowest amount of peak services arriving on time, and the worst amount of overall cancellations and lateness since the time series began in 2004-5.

Historically, the lowest quarterly performance scores are recorded by the long distance operators – but GTR has taken this spot in the last four consecutive quarters.

In Network Rail’s most recent statistics, for period 7, GTR’s performance had slumped below 83%. Similarly to period 5, it was once again the worst-performing operator nationally, with a PPM figure only below that of period 4.This was considerably driven by its sub-operator, Gatwick Express – the only route with a performance below 80% – but its other routes were also significantly below the national average.

There is, however, some hope for the operator. Earlier this week, Network Rail found a way out of the ORR’s £2m licence breach fine threat by creating a £4.1m improvement fund for routes into London Bridge and London Victoria.

The fund, agreed with the regulator, will help improve routes served by GTR’s Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express trains by increasing reliability, punctuality and the overall passenger experience.

The three sub-operators had been plagued with poor performance in 2014-15 as a result of Network Rail’s failure to produce a robust timetable, ultimately leading to severe disruption, missed punctuality targets and routes “below expectations”.

(Top image c. Andrew Matthews)


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