Meeting with Govia Thameslink and Network Rail
Posted Tuesday, 6 January 2015 at 16:10
This afternoon I held a meeting in my Westminster office with representatives of Network Rail and Govia Thameslink. I called them in to express my deep concern about service standards on the line following the franchise handover in September and to reflect the many pieces of correspondence from constituents who have suffered because of delays and cancellations.
Govia accept that performance in the first three months of the franchise was poor and continued to offer their apologies to all those passengers who have been affected. We then bore down into why the situation had arisen and what was being done to improve things now.
A large number of cancellations, as noted by constituents, have been blamed on a lack of drivers. Part of this problem was inherited from First Capital Connect. Some extra drivers were immediately put in extra training but this has not been anywhere near enough to prevent chaos on the network. I expressed my anger that this has been allowed to happen and that my constituents jobs and livelihoods are potentially being put at risk because of consistent delays.
When delays do occur passengers frequently complain that they are not kept informed, either by platform staff, drivers or information boards on the trains. I emphasised that this must change. Delays can be caused by problems out of the control of the operating company but the subsequent communication with their passengers is a vital duty for Govia.
They agreed that this was the case and admit that their system is inferior to that used by FCC. In addition to investment in apps and twitter feeds, I made the point that staff on platforms and trains must have access to the most up to date information that they can share with passengers in announcements and when approached directly.
The UK’s failure, over successive governments and generations, to invest properly in our railway networks is causing failures of our ageing infrastructure. This is being addressed and the lines from London to Bedfordshire are performing well. Unfortunately our trains are affected by knock-on problems occurring on the stretch of line south of London to Brighton. Large parts of the ticket prices we all pay are being spent on updating the networks, including major upgrade projects such as at London Bridge but also all along the lines on smaller but equally necessary works.
Finally, several constituents have raised with me the new system by which compensation is allocated to season tickets holders subjected to delays. Apparently, across the rail industry the operating companies were told by user groups that passengers preferred personalisation and compensation that more accurately reflected delays they had actually experienced, rather than averages based on broader performance figures. This requires personal data entry of the relevant information, for now.
Govia are moving to a new smart-ticketing system similar to London’s Oyster system. This will once again see compensation for delays and cancellations automatically assigned to passengers regardless of their ticket class. That system will come online this year but for the time being passengers will have to claim for each individual delay as it occurs.
Govia have told me things are now going to get better. I have asked for month by month performance figures outlining delays, cancellations and timing of arrivals to assess and chart whether or not they deliver on this commitments. We will meet again in three months to discuss it further and hopefully at that meeting there will be tangible demonstration of improvement that will be felt by all commuters.
In the meantime, any constituent who has suffered delays or any problem with Govia’s service then please do continue to let me know and I will raise the problems with them for you.
Finally, I believe that a twelve month period to train a driver is a tad excessive and the move towards driverless trains in 2017/18 in order to meet the target of 24 trains per hour through the London core is a welcome advancement.
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
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