A day in the life of a Great Northern rail user: ‘The excuses are never ending’
PUBLISHED: 12:29 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:11 21 September 2018
A fed up commuter has spoken of her nightmare train journeys amid continual rail disruption, and has described witnessing a train so packed that a man fell out on to a platform and suffered a head injury.
Potters Bar resident Rachel Moule is a legal PA who commutes twice a week on Great Northern trains, and before that she had been commuting five days per week for 21 years.
Rachel, who now uses only Carnet tickets, was travelling home from London to Potters Bar last Monday (September 10) when she encountered rush hour disruption.
Like many frustrated travellers, she felt so fed up with the “abysmal” journey that she made a complaint to Great Northern and Potters Bar MP Oliver Dowden.
Rachel said: “This followed months and months of continued disruption.
“The 5.45pm Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City train was cancelled.
“No reason was given at Moorgate, but at Finsbury Park they announced it was due to no driver. This is an appalling excuse.
“Surely you should be able employ enough staff to cover holidays/sickness?”
Rachel made the point that there had been three trains between 5.15pm to 5.30pm for people leaving London at about 5pm, but “nothing to cater for those leaving at 5.30pm”.
That evening, Rachel got on a train and disembarked at Finsbury Park to wait for a train departing from King’s Cross.
She said: “This train arrives at Finsbury Park at the same time as the 6pm Moorgate train (ie 6.15pm) however is very slightly quicker.
“Whilst waiting, we were told no trains were going into or out of King’s Cross.
“In the meantime Finsbury Park platform was getting dangerously overcrowded.
“When the Moorgate train arrived at Finsbury Park it was completely overcrowded, so much so, that when the doors opened a man fell out of the train onto the platform resulting in a head injury and the paramedics being called.
“Dangerously overcrowded trains are going to result in accidents like this occurring.
“The train was then delayed leaving the station.”
Rachel says the timetable overhaul in May has exacerbated an already struggling rail service.
She told this newspaper: “This train service has been diabolical for months and months, however since the timetable changes in May it has been unbearable.
“Hours wasted in waiting for cancelled and disrupted trains resulting in people having to explain to their employers the reason why they are late to work yet again.
“The excuses are never ending: lack of staff, broken down train, delayed with no explanation at all, trespassers on the tracks, carrier bag on the overhead lines – the list goes on.”
Summer doesn’t bring back happy memories for Rachel either.
She said: “I was on a packed train which stopped between Drayton Park and Finsbury Park during the hottest summer on record.
“There was no air conditioning.
“We were in the full glare of the sun and we just had to sit and wait as there was yet another broken down train in front of us.”
Echoing the thoughts of fellow travellers, Rachel says compensation schemes are not good enough and issues with Carnet tickets add to the misery.
“The Delay Repay scheme is an insult, giving me back half of my ticket fare when they haven’t got me to where I needed to be on time is not acceptable,” she said.
Carnet users are also finding they can’t get through barriers and there has been talk of the problem across Hertfordshire social media groups.
Rachel said: “Up until recently I purchased my tickets and used them without issue.
“However, now they will not go through the barriers at Potters Bar.
“The inspector insists on taking your ticket from you and stamping it half a dozen times with the date, despite my ticket clearly already displaying the date.
“Is it implied that Carnet ticket holders are trying to fraudulently travel on the train line?
“If so, and GNR are going to make it so difficult for us to use them, then why have them? Surely Oyster is a better option?”
TRAIN OPERATOR RESPONSE
Govia Thameslink Railway has apologised for disruption and highlighted how it will soon be introducing a new rush hour service.
In response to commuter Rachel Moule’s complaints, a Govia Thameslink Railway spokesman sought to highlight improvements in its train services.
The spokesman for GTR, which runs the Great Northern service, said: “Great Northern’s reliability has improved steadily under the interim timetable since July, and is now better than before the introduction of the new timetable in May, with around 84 per cent of trains running on time.
“Unfortunately the Moorgate line and Finsbury Park station were particularly busy during the early evening last Monday because of a trespasser on the track, disrupting trains in and out of King’s Cross.
“We apologise to passengers that the 5.45pm was cancelled.
“This was because the driver was displaced by disruption, not because of a shortage of drivers.”
The spokesman stressed that the performance of the Moorgate to Potters Bar services “has been significantly better than Great Northern’s as a whole”.
The spokesman added: “It is now at its highest level since March, with nine out of 10 trains (89.7%) running on time in the current reporting period.
“The figure only fell below eight out of ten in one period this year (78.4 per cent in late June/early July).”
The current service from London to Potters Bar between 5pm and 7pm consists of 15 trains, eight from Moorgate and seven from King’s Cross.
GTR plans to reintroduce another service from King’s Cross, the 5.51pm, later this month.
Brand new trains being phased in from this autumn are expected to increase capacity on Moorgate services and will eventually replace the current outdated fleet completely.
These new trains will have air conditioning and charging points.
The spokesman told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “We operate the Department for Transport Delay Repay scheme along with most other UK train operators, but we are one of the few to offer compensation for delays as short as 15 minutes, and enhanced compensation for season ticket holders.
“Currently we also have an additional scheme relating to the disruption following the introduction of the new timetable in May.
“Carnets are the most susceptible ticket type to fraud and are therefore a high priority for checking.”
POTTERS BAR MP RESPONSE
Potters Bar MP Oliver Dowden has shared his frustration over the Great Northern line disruption.
He has written back to commuter Rachel Moule following her email of complaint.
Mr Dowden said: “I know first-hand the difficulties which commuters have faced since May and it has gone on far too long.
“I have repeatedly met with executives from Govia Thameslink, the Transport Secretary and the Rail Minister over recent months to demand urgent improvements to Great Northern.
“Progress has been made, but as many have found out, the service still suffers last minute cancellations and bad overcrowding.
“This is something I continue to raise with Great Northern, along with the need to upgrade carriages.
“There are now very serious questions over the future of the franchise, which I continue to discuss with my Parliamentary colleagues.”