England

'Delays' hit third new Govia Thameslink rail timetable

Crowded train Image copyright Emily Perry
Image caption Passengers have described the rail company as "completely incompetent"

A troubled rail operator has been hit by more disruption after introducing its third new timetable in two months.

Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern passengers have faced delays and cancellations since a new timetable began on 20 May.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said the latest timetable would provide a "more robust and reliable service".

But on Monday, the first working day of the new timetable, passengers reported "huge crowds and delays to trains".

While some morning services ran fairly smoothly, problems appear to have hit some evening rush hour trains.

One delayed commuter, Richie Lee Simon, tweeted to say "sorry doesn't cut it".

He added: "GTR were paid £7bn and had two years to plan. They were then given an additional two months and still cocked it up. It's just poor planning. It's that simple."

Another commuter, John Smith, tweeted: "Well done #thameslink. You run a handful of services to #Leagrave and then decide to cancel them to run fast to Bedford. Thieves."

After facing another day of disruption, Conor Brown branded Thameslink "completely incompetent".

While commuter Karl Wilding joked that the new "stable" timetable must be using "the Donald Trump interpretation of the word".

GTR said it was "too early to say" if the new timetable was causing problems.

Earlier on Monday, it said: "Our focus is on the evening peak and rest of the week as we introduce the new interim timetable."

GTR, which oversees Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern routes, changed the time of every train on its timetable on 20 May, which saw some services withdrawn and further cancellations without any warning.

In a half-page newspaper advert, initially placed in the Metro newspaper and since replicated in local papers, it apologised and acknowledged it "failed to launch new services as planned" which has resulted in "significant delays, cancellations and disruption".

Image caption A letter published in newspapers said the company apologised "sincerely and unreservedly"

An interim timetable introduced on 4 June to improve performance saw about 6% of daily services removed, but reliability has continued to struggle.

The operator said the changes would mean a 13% increase in services across the GTR network, 400 extra trains a day and new direct services from 80 stations into central London, creating space for 50,000 extra passengers at peak times.

Its website said the timetable would continue to evolve over time.

"Once this interim timetable is bedded in, we will look to introduce more services to complete the intended May 2018 timetable," it said.

Govia Thameslink's ongoing problems

Last week in the House of Commons, the government warned improvements to GTR services were "simply not happening quickly enough" and the train operator risks losing its franchise.

Standing in for Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Cabinet Office minister and Aylesbury MP David Lidington said: "We have launched a review of Govia Thameslink which will report in the next few weeks, and if those findings show that Govia is at fault we won't hesitate to take action whether that's fines, restricting access to future franchises or stripping them of the franchise.

"Passengers deserve far better than they're getting at the moment in terms of service and we will hold those operators to account."

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