Tuesday 29 March 2022

Thameslink Special - Why is the government letting GTR (Govia) trains carry on mismanaging our railway?

I've used the Thameslink service since it was inaugurated. I was working for BT at the time in Blackfriars and travelling from Mill Hill. I was rather fond of the service, as it took me from door to door in just under half an hour on a good day. There were eight trains an hour in the rush hour, four of which were fast from Mill Hill to St Pancras. Prior to the line opening, I'd have to walk from Farringdon and it cut 15 minutes each way from my journey. The service opened in May 1988. 

When British Rail was privatised, Govia took over. It took them a couple of years to work out how to run the network properly. The early years were a nightmare of cancellations and delays, but it eventually settled down. In 2006 (to my disgust as I thought it should have been renationalised), it was handed over to First Capital Connect. Another period of two years of chaos and debacle as they worked out how to run the network resulted. They also cut the number of trains an hour to four slow ones, which as a result were always packed in rush hour. There was a mini rebellion and eventually they were restored to six an hour in rush hour, with couple of semi fast services.

In 2015 Govia returned in the form of GTR, once again there was a period of chaos as the new operator worked out how to manage the network. In 2018 a chaotic new timetable was introduced, which caused chaos. It ended with the managing director of Govia resigning. The service had just about recovered when the pandemic hit. Over the course of the pandemic, it emerged that Go-Ahead trains, the majority owner of GTR had performed £25 million fraud on the taxpayer and were stripped of the Southern Railways franchise.

As the railway system recovevered from the pandemic and numbers started to return, GTR have imposed an emergency timetable on commuters. This has resulted in a return to four slow trains in the morning rush hour, with a long gap between trains

08:23 from Mill Hill Broadway(MIL) arriving at London St Pancras(STP) at 08:47. This service takes 24 minutes, is Direct. and is currently On time. click for more info

This has created a situation where there is overcrowding and at a time when there is a pandemic, additional risks to commuters of infection. Many are voting with their feet and shunning train travel, just at a time when we should be trying to reduce our usage of fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel.

As the service is supported by the taxpayer, we need a service that serves taxpayers properly, not dodgy train companies that have a very shady record of dealing with public money. Why is the government allowing this mess to continue? If we are serious about sorting out our emissions, we need a reliable transport service. The sorry tale of the Thameslink franchise is anything but that. It should be brought under public control ASAP. 

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