The rail operators running Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express “services” are providing 200 trains a day less than they were running this time last month.
That’s according to a senior official at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
All services into Victoria Station were cancelled for almost two weeks over the Christmas and New Year holidays, ostensibly for engineering and signalling works. But before those works were finished, Govia announced that they would be starting 2022 with a much-reduced, emergency timetable, they claim because of staff absences due to covid.
Inside Croydon readers have reacted with anger and frustration at the poor services they are having to endure this year, particularly those with journeys to the south of East Croydon Station.
While many used to have direct services to Purley, Coulsdon and into Surrey, now they have fewer trains each hour and often face a 20-minute-plus wait for a change of train at East Croydon for their onward journey.
Govia’s press office is refusing to provide figures for the number of trains that they were operating on a typical weekday in January 2020 – before the start of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, when millions of people who would usually rely on their trains to commute into central London daily started working from home.
According to Roger Perkins, across Govia’s four networks (they also operate Great Northern), “We’re running approximately 2,400 services per day now, compared to 2,600 which we had in early December.”
Perkins added, “Of course, we’ll look to reintroduce services as soon as we realistically can,” without giving any indication when that might be.
Today, four other rail operators, including South Western, which runs trains out of Waterloo, have introduced similarly reduced timetables, cancelling hundreds more trains every day.
South Western Railway’s emergency timetable will see it operate 28 per cent fewer weekday trains compared with pre-pandemic levels – compared with the 17 per cent reduction in its timetable in December 2021.
The firm’s managing director, Claire Mann, said the change is “the most effective means of ensuring our customers receive a reliable service”.
Rail operators face financial penalties for late-running and cancelled services. There are no such penalties when the services are removed from their timetables altogether.
Govia’s Perkins denied this.
“Govia will not benefit in any way from [the] reduced timetable,” he told Inside Croydon.
“Any suggestion that it’s related to driver recruitment or our franchise agreement is wrong.”
Perkins refused to provide comparative figures between the services operated by his company today with January 2020, saying that such numbers are “unhelpful”. He failed to say “unhelpful” to whom.
“We are in a completely different situation, particularly in terms of passenger demand,” Perkins said.
While the Tory government has refused to provide a longer-term financial settlement for Transport for London while its fares income is reduced due to covid, Govia and other train companies are getting quite extensive taxpayer support under emergency agreements.
In the year 2020-2021 Govia received £1.291billion in taxpayer support because of the fall in passenger numbers due to covid.
In the first four months of the financial year 2021-2022, the latest figures made available from the Department for Transport, the company received a further £280million.
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