Main cause of Thameslink cancellations is not enough drivers, National Audit Office finds

PUBLISHED: 11:36 10 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:36 10 January 2018

One of the new Class 700 Thameslink trains.

One of the new Class 700 Thameslink trains.

Archant

A lack of drivers was why Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) passengers suffered the worst performance on the UK’s entire rail network according to a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The interior of the new Class 700 trains running for the first time on the Great Northern line. Picture: Govia ThameslinkThe interior of the new Class 700 trains running for the first time on the Great Northern line. Picture: Govia Thameslink

The NAO found track failure was the another cause of the 7.7 per cent of services cancelled or delayed by more than 30 minutes between July 2015 and March 2017.

Train reliability, Network Rail’s management of the rail network, and failures of infrastructure assets such as signalling were also found to be at blame.

Network Rail and the Department for Transport (DfT) were also criticised for not having a good understanding of the infrastructure’s frailty.

GTR’s chief executive Charles Horton said: “The Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise is making good progress in delivering a major upgrade programme to improve reliability and boost capacity on the most congested part of the UK rail network.

“As part of this drive to modernise, we are pioneering improvements in trains and technology, and have updated practices for train drivers and crew that other operators are only now adopting.

“Passengers will increasingly see the benefits of this modernisation project in terms of reliability, punctuality and new journey options.

“We are glad the National Audit Office has recognised these passenger benefits and forecast Thameslink has a realistic chance of delivering value for money.

“TSGN is the UK’s largest franchise – carrying almost a million passengers a day – and the report identifies numerous root causes for the challenges it has faced since its formation in 2014.

“These difficulties have sometimes been greater than expected and we regret the disruption caused to our passengers.

“It is only right a franchise of TSGN’s unprecedented scale and ambition receives scrutiny, and I am more confident than ever that its trailblazing achievements will be felt by rail travellers for generations to come.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Growing passenger numbers and congestion has meant that even small incidents can cause significantly more delay than in other less crowded part of the network.

“The completion of the Thameslink Programme and a £300m programme to boost the reliability of tracks and signalling will deliver big benefits for passengers.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The NAO report confirms that the primary cause of delays and cancellations to passengers has been lack of available staff, which is a direct result of strike action. It is time for the RMT to call off its needless strike action.

“The Thameslink Programme will transform north-south journeys through London this year. New trains will run every two to three minutes through central London, a new rail hub will connect to Crossrail at Farringdon, and a new station opened last week at London Bridge.

“The disruption passengers have experienced is unacceptable, but the NAO recognises service has improved over the last 12 months. The Government has provided an additional £300 million to improve reliability on the Brighton Mainline, and we expect service improvements to continue.”

The NAO reported GTR had benefited passengers through more spacious trains and station improvements, and the amount of fare revenue the Government received had met expectations.

DfT and Govia Thameslink have agreed a £13.4m settlement and the franchise will be broken up by the Government once its contract ends in 2021.

To see the report, visit www.nao.org.uk

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