Less than a month since announcing a much-reduced service for passengers across south London, Govia Thameslink Railway – who also operate Southern Rail – have released details of revised timetables from September 6, with more trains to coincide with the return of schools and colleges after the summer holidays.
But the rail operators claim that, as a result of covid-19 and the change in public working patterns, there will not be a return to their rush-hour dominated timetables for “a very long time to come”.
According to one source who has seen the details of the services from September, “Govia have been publicly criticised for their own failures to manage staffing on their trains. They have had problems in recruiting and retaining drivers long before covid.
“This rapid reversal of many of those changes announced in July makes the withdrawal of so many services for places such as Coulsdon and Purley, Tattenham Corner and Oxted during August appear to be nothing more than Govia making its customers suffer while drivers take their annual leave. Managers at Govia can’t have any notion of providing holiday cover or putting their customers first.”
In an email from Paul Codd, GTR’s “senior stakeholder manager”, which has been seen by Inside Croydon, the railway official says that a new weekday timetable will be introduced to Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern services from Monday September 6. There is no change to weekend services.
“As well as supporting schools and colleges, the new timetable is designed to balance the needs of customers across the network,” Codd writes. “While more trains will run across the network compared to today, some individual routes will see a reduction to make these changes possible.”
Codd is still using covid as an excuse for his rail operators failing to manage their services and staff. “As a business, we continue to recover from the disruption of the past 18 months in terms of how it has impacted our people, and coronavirus will unfortunately continue to have a legacy into the medium term,” he said.
GTR’s “staffing levels are being severely affected by the pandemic”, Codd adds, claiming that “nearly 1 in 5” drivers were unavailable with a mix of coronavirus related absence, delays to essential training given social distancing and “many other reasons that someone is not available to work or cover overtime”. Such as taking leave in August…
The revised timetable will be reviewed in December, with the promise of “small changes and refinements if needed and if possible before then”.
According to Codd, passenger numbers are at 40 per cent of levels that they were before the start of the pandemic in early 2020, and “no one expects weekday passenger demand to resume back to exactly what it was for a very long time to come”.
“In the future, we will need to adapt to growing leisure demand and what is likely to be reduced commuting. It’s for this reason that a larger service will operate on Saturdays than on weekdays – a change from the past, but one that will support leisure demand.
“We also know that customers rightly demand a reliable train service.
“What the past showed is that running more and more trains on fundamentally the same infrastructure inevitably resulted in delays and disruption on a congested network… It was the right timetable for a world characterised by big spikes in rush-hour commuting demand, but it is not right now, and is unlikely to be the right approach in the future.
“As we have shown over the past 18 months, we will continue to monitor demand and reliability and where possible, will make changes based on feedback.”
Details of Thameslink and Southern Rail services are available here www.nationalrail.co.uk, with the updated timetable expected to be available from August 28.
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