Govia Thameslink Railway are delivering plans to reverse decades of under-investment on the rail network. A further review into GTR will not address the challenges that their plans intend to overcome.
The challenges of this part of the network are not new. The industry and Government are addressing the longstanding, historic problems, including driver shortages, rolling stock and network capacity. By 2018 we expect to return the network to the performance that all passengers deserve, and we will do it with increased capacity, renewed facilities and robust, durable infrastructure.This part of the network is extremely complex; indeed it is one of the busiest in Europe. Punctuality on this part of the network has always proven challenging due to the complexity of the infrastructure and the volume of services that operate on it. However, we know that passengers are very frustrated about performance and the service they receive.The Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) franchise incorporates an unprecedented level of investment in the network. The introduction of new trains, new infrastructure and new ways of working is intended to reverse decades of under-investment on this part of the network and provide passengers with more capacity on more reliable services. Given the recent growth in passenger demand, maintaining the status quo is not an option. But the transformation cannot occur overnight. It will take time and close management across the industry to ensure improvements are delivered to passengers.Using the contractual mechanisms available, the Secretary of State served a Remedial Plan notice to GTR last year. In response, GTR have developed a Remedial Plan in response which includes obligations for GTR to recruit and train sufficient drivers to operate current and future timetables, improve reliability of rolling stock and provide better customer information. Passengers are still likely to see disruption occurring in the short term as these plans take time to implement, however taking the franchise away from GTR will not help resolve the issues. This would only create a period of uncertainty for passengers and staff alike. While there are plans in place that are addressing the situation, it is right to allow the current operator the time to address and work through the issues.The Franchise Agreement sets out the steps the Secretary of State must take should GTR not meet its contractual performance benchmarks. There are further actions available to the Secretary of State should GTR not meet their obligations and be in breach of its Franchise Agreement. At that point the Department will follow its published enforcement process.Whilst we understand the frustration felt by passengers affected by disruption, we would like to assure you that the Department for Transport is determined to see further improvements and for GTR to provide the service that passengers expect.Department for Transport
UK Government and Parliament
Whilst one may accept at face value the premise, the argument goes to the kind of railway people want contrast the railway focus and what people will be given. Diversion routes to inform other commuting patterns like Bedford-Cambridge hold one answer - it has to be a main centre for jobs - East Beds looks to places like Bedford for school, study and choice. However, off peak the ORR could allow more flexibility and encourage innovative thinking:
a. a tea trolley selling line guides (a window for local promotions) - see MK Pulse for an example. Maybe an A5 version would be easier and maybe an i-phone icon could be buzzed/flagged to draw attention to travellers for hand-held versions when they sign in to travel? Surely not beyond wit of realms of possibility?
b. dual franchise operation of Marston Vale Trains and electrification for integrative workings e.g. Bedford-Watford
c. rolling stock designed for more than 2 bikes per train allocation-wise and designed in a Guards Van for more-than just people to be carried. Small loads, consignments, parcels and post. Yes there's always a security risk, but modern methods of checks and controls should screen out most if not any bogus items - it is a matter of faith.
d. peak time we seem consigned to standing room only for the foreseeable future. HS2 will not help Bedford line commuters and there's limited capacity. However opening the Dudding Hill Lines and a generous Open Access* approach to the Midland Main Line 'not via terminus'' then North of Bedford to West London, North London and Southern and Thames Valley could be allowed to develop. Guildford, Reading, Acton, Windsor and Eton (tourist terminal from Luton Airport and vice versa) - these could be licenced by Government now and 'let the market decide' - a window for an operator to have a shot at.
Government is conservative to allow innovation citing Anglia Railways Ipswich-Basingstoke failure as a reason to disallow orbital long distance operations; but anyone who knows the North London lines knows how busy they are and how the southern is a miracle every day for missed paths and re-scheduling and yes, cancellation sometimes.
But if people are saving money, on the move and know what to expect, they can know when to get off. HS2 will deliver to Old Oak Common or Euston (adjacent lands apparently) and Crossrail 2 and 3 are 10 years off. Cambridge/Peterborough trains could operate through St Pancras Thameslink - we were told the rails are in situ, but security concerns and appropriate rolling stock bedevil that plan. Not a panacea for those coming north to Bedford, but more trains and seats for those going south. Perhaps the new Siemens Class 700's are the ticket to resolve the conundrum? The media need to exorcise Government.
The gap between how it can give long hours to entertain HS2 at £50 billion which wont entertain cross-Channel international trains, Heathrow or HS1 link up, and how it is reticent on the aforementioned ideas shows the media could like the In/Out Referendum, help explain to the public these discrepancies.
* From above: DfT is desperately short of choice for awarding Franchises to. By a more liberal approach to Open Access the Government could allow smaller entries to railway operations including Network Rail and through engagement and experience the survival of the fittest and best service to customers with balances in reasonable condition, could bid to do more and diversify into passenger and freight, reopenings and diverse services such as Kent from West Midlands 'not via London' to spread footfall and spend around the English Regions, not concentrate in London, the Southeast or other metropolitan areas. The Franchises are arguably too big, too one large player amongst other large players and even a shared Thameslink Franchise, could be one operator does Bedford-Brighton, others Cambridge/Peterborough-Southeast plethora for example and whilst London Midland - if they still wish to - does existing hourly Bedford-Bletchley services, another could do alternate hourly making a half hourly frequency. A system must be developed to retain same ticketing for all operators, unlike the buses where you have one ticket for use on one operator type only on some routes such as UNO C1/C10 and Stagecoach 53 and No. 1 for example. Common carrier status and more user access rights should be fostered across all public transport. Privatisation has not seen the benefit or case for this, the passenger is inconvenienced where this is the case raising the question what and whom are they there for - profit or people?