Entirely predictably, Govia Thameslink, the operators in charge of Southern train services, have caused complete chaos with their new timetable, as our transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON reports
No one needed to study the works of Nostradamus to predict the train chaos yesterday and today, as probably the world’s least reliable rail network introduced a new timetable.
“The new Thameslink train timetable has completely revolutionised the way I don’t get where I’m going on time,” as one pissed-off commuter put it.
For months, Inside Croydon has been highlighting some of the less-than-optimal “improvements” in the services supposedly provided by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) under its 2020 timetable revision, which was supposed to start yesterday.
The private rail operators claim to be adding an extra 400 services across its Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern franchise as part of an overhaul which they have bigged up as the largest seen in Britain since George Stephenson tightened the last bolt on his Rocket.
But rail-user groups, such as ABC – the Association of British Commuters – have been warning that GTR has never properly staffed its drivers’ roster, and certainly has not recruited additional drivers for these extra 400 trains.
Entire routes had all their “services” cancelled yesterday, as the operator demonstrated yet again that it was unable to fulfil the train system that it had devised for itself.
Rail union the RMT is calling today “Meltdown Monday” and said it should “spell the end of the privatised chaos on Britain’s railways”. Good luck with that while Chris Grayling’s the unaccountable transport secretary.
The Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail operator, which serves East Croydon, South Croydon, stations in Coulsdon, Sutton and Surrey, is supposed to run services to Bedford, Luton, Peterborough, King’s Lynn, Cambridge, London King’s Cross, London Moorgate, Wimbledon and Brighton.
The service overhaul is the end-result of a £7billion investment in rail infrastructure around London Bridge Station and the upgrade of the Midlands-to-south-coast Thameslink route, which was due to be completed in 2020. After the 18-year delay, frustrated commuters whose journeys to work this morning were subject to additional disruption were wondering whether it might take a similar length of time for GTR to implement its timetable.
The BBC is reporting that GTR has said today, “we expect some disruption to services in the initial stages… Despite some cancellations, passengers will benefit from an overall increase in capacity with immediate effect.
“We are implementing over the coming weeks the biggest timetable change in a generation to boost capacity and improve reliability, introducing 400 extra daily trains and space for 50,000 extra passengers in the peak.
“Due to the scale and complexity of the task, these changes will be made incrementally. This involves redeploying drivers and trains and changing operating practices to achieve a large increase in the number of services, carriages and station stops.”
After we highlighted how the timetable changes would actually deliver a worse service for passengers looking to travel home to Purley, for example, and that Freedom Pass-users at many stations would have to delay their journeys by almost half-an-hour because of the changes, Inside Croydon’s loyal reader has been responding to our appeals for their analysis of how the timetable changes – if they ever operate as they are supposed to – might impact their daily commute.
One reader has emailed us to say, “I am glad someone other than me is starting to see how the changes are basically cut backs. They are also irrational.
“The Selhurst to Victoria service was a key part of the turn up and go proposals for South London Metro in the late 1990s. Currently it has six trains an hour off-peak, which fits the turn up and go status.
“As from May 20, this will be cut back by one-third, to four trains per hour.
“Govia keep claiming that there will be 400 more trains a day. Has been independently audited? I can’t see where they exist. My sneaking suspicion is that there are more trains on Thameslink, but less on Southern.”
The experience of one shift worker who needs to get to his place of work early each morning underlines how the revised timetable – just as with the withdrawal of night trains from Victoria last year – has managed to remove trains from providing the service which passengers depend upon.
“I live in South Croydon and work as a postman with a 6am start at my depot in Wandsworth Road. When the night services between Brighton and London Victoria were withdrawn last year, I switched to taking the 60 bus to Streatham Common and picking up the 05.34 train (originating Selhurst) to Clapham Junction, arriving about 05.43 then another short bus journey to get to work on time.
“From this week, this train has been retimed to 05.49 at Streatham Common, not getting to Clapham Junction until after 6am. I will no longer be able to get to work by train and will have to take at least three buses and may still not arrive on time.
“Southern seem to have no regard for those with early-morning starts. The train which I used to travel on was well-used. Lots of people dash for connections at Clapham Junction or continue to Victoria.
“It is ridiculous that Croydon has no trains arriving at Victoria before 6am. All bad news for those with early starts, usually the low paid who are forced to move further out of London due to housing costs.”
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