Friday, 18 November 2016

When will passengers get a proper apology from Thameslink management?

Thameslink disruption again
Yet again the Thameslink service collapsed yesterday. Yet again, I'll be submitting my claim for £2.40 for the privelidge of standing on a platform for an hour or so as chaos ensured. Yet again I had to rearrange things, ask mates to pick up my son and take him to football. In the end, I got the tube. I had to ring my missus and ask her to collect me from Colindale, so I could make an 8.30 commitment. And for my hassle, I will get £2.40 if I'm lucky. Now if this was a one off, I wouldn't even bother claiming, but last week we had chaos. In fact ever since Thameslink took over  from First Capital Connect, a poor service has become intolerable.

It is rare for a week to go by without some sort of disruption. I have taken to leaving ridiculously early when I need a train, getting the 07.17 to be in my office near Farringdon for 9am. It should be 20 mins. It is the only way I can guarantee to be there. It means most days I can enjoy a leisurely start and a cup of tea. It seems that after the 7.17, the service is chaotic more often than it's not. As for coming home, I employ one of two strategies I either leave earlyish and get the 16:49 from Farringdon if it's not disrupted or I go to the pub and drink myself into oblivion when it is and stagger home as and when they fix it. Often this means sampling the delights of the Northern Line. This means a walk to Moorgate and a bus from Burnt Oak.

A season ticket from Mill Hill to Farringdon costs £1256 per annum. That is not a small sum. If you had a customer who gave you £1256 wouldn't you value them? Wouldn't you try and keep them happy? What do I get? A load of hassle and a process where I have to scan my season ticket (despite them having my details on file), and fill in a long online form detailing my journey. Twenty days or so later, I get a voucher for £2.40 which I have to cash in for a new ticket at my local station. Most people can't be bothered. When the problems are down to Network Rail, Thameslink get compensated by Network Rail, but this is only passed on to those who claim it. The rest goes to Shareholders of Govia as dividends on profits. That is why I always claim.

Before First Capital Connect took over, there was a different system. If you bought a Season ticket, you got a discount if they'd failed in the previous period. In short you paid less, without any hassle. First Capital Connect twigged that they could trouser the cash if they put in a system where people had to claim it. For me it is quite simple what should happen. When you buy a season ticket, you should register and set up a payment mandate. If they fail, you should get a BACS payment. The payment should be for the period of your ticket. If they only run 88% of services on time and they have a target of 95% then we should get 7% of the ticket price back. This should automatically be paid into our account. No if's no buts. I've discussed this with dozens of Thameslink passengers and all agree. For one off journeys, clearly there will have to be a claim process, but most people who use Mill Hill are regular commuters and have some form of season ticket. This would give the train company a proper incentive to perform. I am not surprised that a greedy train company would not like this, but we have an MP. His name is Matthew Offord and he is meant to represent us. He should be demanding that the Rail Regulator insist that Thameslink have a proper, user friendly system of compensation. He hasn't said a dickybird. If you ask him to take action via Twitter he'll block you. If you ask him at a public meeting he'll tell you that being nice to train operators is "more productive" (it maybe for him, but it hasn't been for his constituents). I daresay that six months before the next election in 2020, we may see some action, but there is no interest from him to do it now.

And finally, the managing Director of Thameslink should send a proper apology. I'd like to see him come to Mill Hill and apologise to commuters in person. Most companies that people like me spend over a grand with try and at least pretend they care. Train monopolies don't give a monkeys.

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