Govia Thameslink Railway say they are “very sorry” for the shoddy service they have been providing all year, but particularly in August, on Southern and Thameslink trains, but they continue to blame the “Pingdemic” for driver shortages and short-notice cancellations.
GTR this week revealed plans for increased service levels across their networks from September 6, reinstating many of the trains which they removed from the timetables as recently as July 26 in their latest round of cuts.
But the services provided from next month will remain considerably below February 2020, pre-pandemic levels – the service which GTR is contracted to the Department for Transport to provide – with railway officials warning this week there will not be a return to their old, rush-hour dominated timetables for “a very long time to come”.
In another letter to a senior City Hall official, notably sent from a member of Govia’s PR staff (rather than anyone in their operations team), the rail operators simpered, “The challenges facing my colleagues are not unique, and amended timetables are currently in operation across the UK…
“I do recognise that the current service does mean more challenging journeys for our customers and we are very sorry. We know that short notice cancellations are the most disruptive and are doing everything we can to create as much certainty as possible for customers.”
The PR spinner was at pains to deny any responsibility for the company’s failure to conduct adequate recruitment of drivers – something which has been seen as a cause of service disruption long before Govia could rely on covid-19 or even Brexit for aconvenient excuse.
“The current issues are not related to a shortfall in driver recruitment,” they claim.
“GTR employs 2,100 qualified crew, providing a ratio of over 2.3:1 in terms of drivers to scheduled workings.” They claim that this is “one of the higher levels in the sector”.
“Clearly, however, the progress of new trainees to replace retiring staff through our academy has slowed over the past 18 months, given challenges of social distancing and smaller group sizes with instructors. This has resulted in the process becoming less efficient.
“The challenge has been how to manage a mixture of short-notice coronavirus-related absence, in combination with the knock-on impact of disruption to our businesses,” they say, the closest thing to an admission that GTR has failed to manage their staffing adequately.
They offer an example from a week ago when two members of staff at two depots tested positive for coronavirus. This “meant we then lost over 20 drivers to test and trace within 72 hours”. GTR claims that such loss of staff availability could account for as many as 100 cancellations per day.
“Since the [covid] rules have been relaxed this week, we have seen an increase of drivers who can return to service, previously unable to work due to test and trace. We expect this to increase in line with the rest of the country,” the Govia PR spinner wrote.
“My colleagues have spent the last few weeks planning the 6 September timetable, which as well as setting up the network to best support schools and colleges, will help to ensure services are as reliable as possible when people return back to offices.
“We are doing everything we can to improve reliability and to support the gradual return of customers to public transport and look forward to working with you and other stakeholders to shape and improve services in the future.”
Of course, commuters, as they return to their daily shuttles from south London to the city centre, season ticket-holders and passenger groups will be watching closely to see whether Govia really can up its game, or to discover what they next use as an excuse.
- For a summary of the service changes from September 6 and how they might affect you and your journeys, click here
- Inside Croydon depends on regular subscriptions from our readers to enable us to continue to deliver exclusive, headline-making and independent journalism – the sort of scrutiny that Croydon Council would prefer did not exist. Please sign up today as a subscriber. Click here
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named the country’s rottenest borough in 2020 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine – the fourth successive year that Inside Croydon has been the source for such award-winning nominations
- Inside Croydon: 3million page views in 2020. Seen by 1.4million unique visitors
Govia, the service is not good enough. I was stranded at east Croydon for over an hour twice this week trying to get home. There are no trains on the Caterham line…. and the ones they time timetable are cancelled at short notice with no alternative services to get home. I spent a fortune on taxis yet again. I could not stay at home I had to work.
We noticed the Caterham cancellations from Selhurst on Saturday afternoon. The match was bad enough, then trying to get back afterwards, Southern doesn’t help. It’s all doom and gloom – and that’s including the Croydon Council fiasco.
Are these really not the long term impacts of transport Ministers picking fights with unions and reductions to staff? This is not pingdemic it looks more to do with poor resilience. Or would Govia like the label of poor Risk and Business management?
I find it hard to believe with previous executives of Mr Horton and My Byford’s quality that they left a badly run company in their wake with a history of exactly the opposite?
Perhaps some might consider this opportunism – as many operators would like to lose some of those non cost effective services.
On the overall subject of Croydon today I keep thinking of the Specials that Ska band of the 80s and the song Ghost town. Apologies to Jerry for the slight rewrite of his poingent and still relevant lyric’s.
This town, is becoming like a ghost town
All the stores have been closed down
Tenants walls ‘av been turning brown
Kids don’t play no more
Too much fighting on the council floor
Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We went to Fairfields, and the music played in the boomtown
This town, is coming like a ghost town
Why must the youth fight against themselves?
Council leaving the youth on the shelf
No Libraries and no grass being mown
No job to be found in this county
This can’t go on no more
The people just getting angry
Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?
We went to Lloyd park, and the Mela played in the boomtown.
This town, is coming like a ghost town!
Perhaps it would be nice to have a Specials and Madness revival concert open air and use the proceeds to for parks and lIbraries?
Cracking tune I think it was my first vinyl single. But I want anchor stores and cheaper parking better trains more buses and no more bad planning in aliboomtown.