£5m Govia fine a ‘token gesture’, say North Herts rail user groups

Govia Thameslink has been fined £5 million for the May timetable chaos. Picture: DANNY LOO.

Govia Thameslink has been fined £5 million for the May timetable chaos. Picture: DANNY LOO. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Rail user groups in North Herts believe Govia Thameslink Railway’s £5 million fine for the chaos caused by the May 2018 timetable is merely a “token gesture”.

GTR was given the fine by the Office of Rail and Road after it found that the rail company “failed to provide appropriate, accurate and timely information to passengers following the introduction of a new timetable last May”.

Rosalind Southward from Hitchin Rail Commuters believes that the fine is not enough and it may have an impact on rail fares.

“To be honest, that £5 million seems like a lot of money, but if you look at the money the train company makes it’s not very significant. It’s almost a token gesture,” she said.

“From a rail users’ point of view, we have just had a fare increase despite all the problems we’ve had. Are we going to get another one because of this fine?”

Rosalind also believes that the £15 million GTR paid in compensation will have little effect on the company, saying: “Again, the £15 million they paid out in compensation seems like a lot, but I think I got back about £150, £200.

“For myself I couldn’t get into work to teach my classes. The money doesn’t compensate for that.

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“They should have got it right the first time when they introduced the new timetable in May.”

Rosalind’s views were echoed by Aljit Vohra from Stevenage Rail Users Group who said: “We feel the potential £5m fine is not representative of the disruption that was caused.

“It was a sustained and prolonged issue for passengers using the network at the time, and remains an issue where capacity is concerned.

“Stevenage is particularly impacted by the revisions, we have a high level of concern for the fact that nobody can be seated from Stevenage during a peak service - this is truly unacceptable from Govia and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

In a joint statement, Letchworth Rail Users Group co-chair Leanne Stott and Royston & Villages Rail Users Group chair Edward Carder said: “The fine imposed on Govia is a pointless piece of political symbolism.The biggest part of the blame lies with the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, who still hasn’t had the decency to resign.

“Rather than a derisory fine, all parties to blame should have paid proper compensation to passengers, as our user groups pressed for repeatedly. Instead, passengers have again been made to bear the cost of the government’s failed rail policy. We are pressing to be consulted about how the £15m infrastructure fund should be spent. After much PR around the announcement, little more seems to have happened.”

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