6 Dec 2014

New train operator worse than ever

At a recent meeting of the Council's Scrutiny Committee, I joined other councillors in quizzing Govia and Network Rail representatives on recent events on the Thameslink route.

The Chief Operating Officer of Govia confirmed what passengers already suspected - that since Govia took over from First Capital Connect, service on the route had got significantly worse. We were shown the graph of performance above - truly awful.

Some of this has been due to bad luck - there has been a high number of suicides recently, for example. However, much of it is down to the operators. We were dismayed to hear that the aim for Govia now is to get back up to First Capital Connect's performance levels. Hardly an ambitious aim.

I asked about a number of specific issues, including the problems of the area on and beyond platform 4 in St Albans, and the extreme way that vegetation is removed along the trackside.

I was pleased to hear that Govia is going to redevelop the exit and area beyond platform 4, as there is currently very little that is good about it. It's also pretty shameful that this ramshackle area should be an arrival and departure point for visitors to our city.

I was less pleased to hear the response about clearing vegetation. Network Rail says that to protect overhead lines from increasingly fast-growing vegetation, their policy was now to be "more aggressive" in cutting it back. Residents will know that this means razing every living thing to the ground from trackside right up to the bordering fences.

Network Rail says it can't afford to maintain these areas very often, so when they do, they have to be brutal. Meanwhile residents suffer from increased train noise and loss of enjoyment of trees, not to mention the implications for wildlife.


Olly said...

No particular fan of Govia, but I'm not sure this graph is fair or a particularly helpful argument.

The day the Greens get elected into government, and I for one would like to see this day, I will immediately expect the country to improve; and when the first set of economic figures show that not to be the case, I will demand the resignation of Caroline Lucas et al, rather than accept that much of this performance is based on the actions of the previous administration and not in the control of the new incumbents.

Simon Grover said...

Fair point Olly. The graph is from Govia themselves. It does show performance getting worse AT A FASTER RATE than before.

In September Govia's chief exec said "There’s no underestimating the challenge of the task ahead. But I’m confident that we have the people and the plans in place to make a real difference to the service we give our passengers, and that for our staff GTR will be a great place to work."

It's also true that rail franchisees neglect their service when they're at the end of their franchise.