Monday, 23 July 2018

Thameslink - This is not a service, it is a complete joke - Barneteye comment

This morning I had a very lucky result. I was due to have a business meeting in Farringdon at 9.15. When the alarm clock went off at 7am, I did a quick check on the service from Mill Hill Broadway into town. I've not been commuting regularly since November, so I've missed the worst of the disruption, but what I saw shocked me. I first started regularly using the service back in 1981, when it was run by British Rail and operated by clapped out diesel railcars. The line was known as the Bedpan (Bedford to St Pancras) line. Shortly after, new trains were introduced when the line was electrified. In the mid 1980's, it was further improved with the introduction of the cross London Thameslink service. At the time, there were eight trains an hour in rush hour, from Mill Hill to Central London. In 2004, First Capital Connect had taken over and brought in the first of many "timetable improvements" Mill Hill has seen. The frequency was slashed from eight to four trains an hour. All of the fast trains were abolished. The result was overcrowding and chaos.

After much lobbying, some fast trains were re-introduced over a period of years, with 5-6 trains an hour. The line has had huge disruption, first with the construction of the International terminal at St Pancras, which resulted in a six month blocade of the central London service. For this period, the "Bedpan" service was reintroduced, with a very regular stopping shuttle between Bedford and St Pancras. Then all manner of disruption as the line was overhauled for the Thameslink program. We were promised that when the work was finished, we'd get an amazing new timetable with a metro frequency timetable.  In May, the new timetable was introduced. It collapsed. There were more cancellations than trains running. A new emergency timetable was hastily drawn up.

This new timetable was introduced last week. So what sort of service are we now getting at Mill Hill. As I mentioned, I saw the effects first hand today. I was shocked. 
There are now only three trains at the height of the rush hour between 8am and 9am. This is the worst service I've ever seen for a morning rush hour. Worse than when British Rail ran a diesel service, worse than the dark days of the First Capital Connect mismanagement.

This is not a joke. People have to get to work. People have appointments. This chaos is not down to accidents, war, plague or famine. It is completely down to a failed system of privatised management. The only people I know who support the current arrangements are either ideologically obsessed Conservative MP's, who never use the service. The transport secretary, Chris Grayling is completely out of his depth. After years of sticking up for Govia, even our local MP Matthew Offord has been forced to mildly criticise Thameslink. He asked the Transport secretary to give Govia a deadline to sort the service out and sack them if they didn't meet it. The response sums up just how completely out of his depth the transport secretary is
I am very clear that I expect GTR to deliver an improvement to the current situation as a matter of real urgency. If it does not do so, it will lack the credibility to continue as operator.
Matthew at Mill Hill Broadway Station
Mr Matthew Offord at Mill Hill Broadway Station
That will have them quaking in their boots. Sadly Mr Offord really doesn't seem to have a grip on the situation. I suggest you read the full text of his latest blog post. I am really rather disappointed that he had nothing to say about the abysmal response from the secretary of state. Mr Offord seems to think that bunging commuters a few quid in exchange for the misery they've suffered is something to brag about. Most people I know can't be bothered to waste the time claiming, they just want a good service. If you look carefully, you will see Mr Offord has a picture on the blog of himself at Mill Hill Broadway (see right). He seems to have achieved the almost impossible feat of going to the station when there were no disgruntled passengers waiting for non existent trains. I'd rather like to see Mr Offord visit the station between 8am and 9am to see what real users, the daily commuters have to say to him.

Anyone who has had to suffer the service in all its incarnations since British Rail will know that none of the operators have improved the offering. Railways need joined up management. Mr Offord admits as much in his blog where he says
I appreciate that some issues such as signalling are the responsibility of Network Rail and I have raised - and continue to do so - the high number of signal failures.
The answer is obvious, bring back a unified operation. I am under no illusions that BR was perfect, but as with many things in life, I'd settle for the least worst option. There is no way that we'd have had a cock up like this under BR. I took a Thameslink train on it's first day of operation and regularly used it ever since. I remember the BR excuses and the strikes. It was the original Thameslink 319 trains that failed with the excuse "the wrong type of snow". We'd have periods of bad service, but not for months on end. What is worse is that it shows no signs of actually improving. It is nearly two months since the original "new timetable" was introduced, yet here we are down to three trains in rush hour.

The time has come for Govia to Go! Bring back a unified operator and bring some sanity back to public transport.

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