Govia Disruption - June 2019

I was very disturbed by the number of reports coming in over the past couple of weeks from constituents struggling with rail disruptions. Like many rail users, I have enjoyed the relative reliability of the train service over the past six months or so and was horrified to think we might be returning to the disastrous shambles of last May.

Last week I spoke to Chief Operating Officer of Govia Thameslink, Steve White, to make clear – in no uncertain terms – that my constituents and I would not tolerate a return to the chaos and unreliability previous experienced.

I will not apologise for Govia, and I will not offer up excuses on their behalf. I know constituents will be keen to see details of what was discussed, and I have made available below a follow-up note from Steve White outlining our conversation. The four specific commitments made to me by GTR, because of the call, are:

  1. GTR will reinforce the protection of Arlesey services during times of disruption with a minimum service level of one train per hour wherever possible.
  2. GTR will add the first train of the day on weekends to protected status to increase provision for keyworkers at times of disruption. Protected status or “golden trains” is a set of services that we will seek to operate as a priority during any wider disruption e.g. signal failure.
  3. GTR will contact and resolve the passenger complaints received by your office as a result of the disruption on 1 June 2019.
  4. GTR will provide you and other stakeholders with advanced notice of any anticipated significant disruption in the months ahead.

Along with Rail User Groups for Biggleswade and Arlesey, I will be arranging for representatives from Govia to come to the constituency to give local rail users the chance to put their concerns to them and hear directly about how they intend to deliver the service expected. I will publish details of that meeting as soon as possible.

 

Dear Alistair,

Thank you again for your time yesterday to allow me to explain the events of the 1st of June 2019 and the outlook for the months ahead.

The disruption experienced by passengers on the afternoon of the 1st of June was entirely unacceptable and we at GTR fully recognise that. We recognise, as you mentioned, that this experience and the levels of disruption during the week of the 27th May have damaged the trust and goodwill established with passengers over the past six months of improving performance. I want to reassure you that the team at GTR is determined to put things right.

The 1st of June saw an unusually high level of cancellations. This was the result of driver unavailability due to the combined impact of Class 717 conversion training on Great Northern Metro, additional route learning on Great Northern and Thameslink long distance services, drivers rostered to instruct new trainees and peak demand for annual leave. We would normally be able to cover any shortfall through overtime, but it was not possible to secure this cover for the afternoon of 1 June 2019 with the combined impact of half-term and a major sporting event reducing demand for overtime.

We are, of course, reviewing our plans for the weeks ahead and will provide a much improved service this Saturday 8th June. We will continue to undertake rigorous assessments of the weekend plans and will keep stakeholders and passengers updated.

During our call we discussed our ongoing training requirements over the months ahead. These requirements do unfortunately involve the risk of some cancellations in the short term - most likely on Saturdays. I can assure you however that we are inherently stronger and better prepared than last year and there will be no repeat of the events of the summer of 2018, which I know is a major concern.

In addition, as a record of our conversation, I have detailed the four specific actions that I will be following up immediately, these are:

  1. GTR will reinforce the protection of Arlesey services during times of disruption with a minimum service level of one train per hour wherever possible.
  2. GTR will add the first train of the day on weekends to protected status to increase provision for keyworkers at times of disruption. Protected status or “golden trains” is a set of services that we will seek to operate as a priority during any wider disruption e.g. signal failure.
  3. GTR will contact and resolve the passenger complaints received by your office as a result of the disruption on 1 June 2019.
  4. GTR will provide you and other stakeholders with advanced notice of any anticipated significant disruption in the months ahead.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions, once again, thank you again for your time yesterday and I look forward to working closely with you in the months ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Steve White,

Chief Operating Officer

GTR