Train commuters in south east London face worst delays in Britain



A Southern train pulls up to Crystal Palace station. Pic: Charlie Floyd

Main rail lines running through Lewisham and Croydon have been named as the worst in the country this week.

Thameslink and Southern were severely criticised in a new report by the government spending watchdog, the National Audit Office.

In the last three years, one in twelve trains on the franchise have been cancelled or delayed by over 30 minutes, almost three times the disruption suffered on the rest of the rail network.

Around 40 per cent of the cancelled trains were caused by a shortage of drivers or train crew, which more often than not was due to disputes between rail unions and train management.

Following the 3.5 per cent price hike at the start of the year, the report says the franchise, “has not delivered value for money.”

The Department for Transport has also been blamed in the report. “The Department did not seek sufficient assurance that Govia Thameslink would have enough train drivers when it took on the franchise,” it said.

The ‘driver only operation’ plan is at the heart of the problem, causing strikes and fall-out between the unions and the operators. The Department for Transport accepted the plan, but the report says they “did not fully evaluate the possible effects on passengers of different scenarios of industrial action.”

Govia Thameslink, which also runs Great Northern Rail, took on the franchise in July 2015.

Although some improvements have been made, passengers have experienced constant disruption.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office said: “Over the last three years long-suffering passengers on the Thameslink franchise have experienced the worst performance on the rail network. Some of the problems could have been avoided if the Department had taken more care to consider passengers in its design of the franchise.”

The other reasons for delays and cancellations included the reliability of their trains, tracks and infrastructure, like signalling.

Twitter was full of reaction about delays on Southern Services this morning:

Commuters from Waterloo, to Cannon Street, to London Bridge and in New Cross were calm in the face of the disruption. ELL spoke to a few who were resigned to the poor service. John Harrington, 36 from Lewisham called it “business as usual”.

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