‘Appalling, a raw deal’ – Great Northern railway operator Govia Thameslink told to improve service or face government action

A planned strike on the Great Northern and associated lines has been suspended

A planned strike on the Great Northern and associated lines has been suspended - Credit: Archant

Great Northern railway operator Govia has been urged to get its act together or face government intervention amid ‘appalling’ passenger service.

After constant last-minute cancellations and disruption, Herts County Council and five other local authorities, including North Herts District Council and Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, have together appealed to the new rail minister Paul Maynard to ensure that Govia – which also operates the failing Southern Rail franchise – provides the services it promised on its routes in and out of the capital.

Derrick Ashley, responsible for transport at Herts County Council, said: “While the national spotlight has recently shone on the poor performance of Govia’s rail service Southern, we would like to highlight the appalling quality of service for our residents using Govia Thameslink and Great Northern services to the north of London.

“This, on top of the impact of Southern services on areas to the north and west of London, mean our rail travellers are getting a raw deal.

“We have urged Govia to improve their services for the benefit of the travelling public to little effect and now we want to see government take the side of the hard-pressed traveller and get our rail services back on track.”

A Herts County Council spokesman added that Great Northern regularly attributes cancellations and disrupted services to a shortage of drivers and other staff.

Great Northern’s passenger service director Keith Jipps responded by apologising for the disruption and shortages, adding that both issues were at least partly beyond the operator’s control.

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“We apologise sincerely for the cancellations and service disruption,” he said.

“We have been up front about driver vacancies on Great Northern and Thameslink since the start of our franchise and have been working as fast as possible to fill them. However, it takes over a year to recruit and train each one and we need more and more as we bring in new services and new trains – all of which requires drivers to be taken off duty for additional training.

“Services have also been hit by a spate of signalling and power issues which are outside our control as well as the tragedy of two people hit by trains at Potters Bar in a week and increasing trespassing on the railway lines, all of which have caused serious delays to our passengers.”

One Hitchin commuter said: “For a while now they have been an utter shambles. It is possible to claim compensation when they’re late, but only if the delay is more than half an hour. Otherwise you’ve just lost your money.

“They also regularly short-form trains – four coaches where there should have been eight, for example. There’s no penalty for them to do that. Meanwhile it’s rush hour and you’re packed in like sardines on the way home from work.

“You can forgive that kind of thing when it’s just once in a while, but this is three or four times a week, and it costs an absolute fortune. So far as I’m concerned government intervention is long overdue.”

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