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Changes to rail timetable will give “more certainty” to passengers

Cambridge, England - February 21, 2012: A train is stopped in Cambridges train station, while people walk on the platforms.
Cambridge, England - February 21, 2012: A train is stopped in Cambridges train station, while people walk on the platforms.

Rail operators are apologising for a service they say “has not been good enough”, but passengers are already saying the compensation being offered is insufficient.

A barrage of complaints by commuting constituents this week prompted South Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen to write to Govia Thameslink Railway passenger services director, Stuart Cheshire, saying the situation is “reaching danger point”.

The Tory MP said: “You’ve had six weeks to get this timetable back on its feet and it still isn’t delivering.

“I am receiving notifications from people that this chaos, and the stress it has caused, has forced them to hand in their resignations because they can no longer face their daily commute. This is decimating South Cambs productivity.”

Photographer Trevor Lee contacted the Cambridge Independent this week to tell of his experience traveling by rail.

He said: “I was significantly delayed on both legs of the journey and ended travelling on overcrowded trains, jeopardising safety. I have never seen so many delayed and cancelled trains.

“This demonstrated total incompetence by the train operator and has gone on for far too long.”

In an apology to customers, Network Rail, Great Northern and Thameslink said an interim timetable will prioritise peak-time trains from July 15 to “give more certainty” to people planning journeys.

They said a compensation package is in place for some passengers offering “a refund equivalent to the cost of one or four weeks’ travel”.

But vice-chair of rail advocacy group Railfuture’s East Anglia Branch, Christopher Burton, said this may not be enough.

He said: “In more than 45 years of personal railway interest I cannot recall timetable disruption on such a profound scale.

“British Rail sometimes generated slightly overambitious schedules on certain routes, or suffered from traction shortcomings, but never the sheer disarray at Thameslink or indeed with Northern Rail where the position is at least as bad, but for slightly different reasons.”

Chairman of Railfuture East Anglia Branch Nick Dibben said that in a stakeholder meeting on Tuesday evening Govia Thameslink confirmed that they have enough drivers with the right route knowledge to run the service from Monday July 16.

“The problem previously was the ability to match drivers and trains at the start of the new timetable due to last minute changes made to the timetable by Network Rail,” he said. “Over the next few months, additional peak hour trains will be added when practical to do so. The weekend timetable is affected by planned engineering works so passengers urged to check each weekend.

“The December 2018 timetable change is being reviewed nationally as there are far more changes planned than intended in May 2018. GTR hope to add more of the off-peak trains intended for this May in December.”

He said a compensation package is currently being agreed with the Department for Transport. Funding will be split between DfT, GTR and Network Rail.

A Govia Thameslink spokesman said: “We apologise to passengers for the disruption caused by the late approval of the May timetable.

“We have spent time replanning how we use our drivers and trains that will shortly give passengers a more robust and reliable service, prioritising peak-time trains and reducing gaps in the service where possible.”

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