Commuter anger after signal failure causes more delays for Southern services from Croydon

East Croydon stadion. Pic: Oxyman

Commuters from Croydon have faced more delays in the most recent set of failings from rail service providers in south London.

On Thursday, rail passengers were asked not to travel into London after signal failures in the Streatham area caused mass delays. There were no trains running between East Croydon and London Victoria all day and delays across all of the southern network with delays and cancellations carrying on this morning. Crucial Gatwick Express services were also halted.

This is the most recent failing after Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) who operate Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick express services have struggled with delays for over a month now since a new timetable was brought into use on May 20. The new timetable, which had hoped to streamline rail services and increase reliability, has faced widespread criticism with many commuters facing longer journeys due to delays.

In a statement, John Halsall, Network Rail’s managing director for the South East route, said yesterday: “I would like to offer a sincere apology to everyone who has had their journey disrupted today. Our job is to provide a reliable railway for train operators and the travelling public and today it’s clear we’ve failed in that task.”

Tom Lawrence, 22,  has been commuting to work in central London from Croydon for over two years. “Before the timetable changes it took me the best part of 30 minutes to get into work if everything ran smoothly, now I’m very lucky to do it in an hour. It’s been terrible,” he said.

“Wednesday night has been my worst journey, I was trying to get home from Victoria at about 23:00 and every single train was cancelled. There was then an announcement that there would be one train reinstated, so along with everyone else who had been waiting we piled onto the train.” Lawrence explained.

“Two men began fighting outside after pushing each other trying to get onto the train, which was horrible to see. The packed train was then made to wait there for another half an hour, we were then told that this train was cancelled and that we would need to get off and then board another. This happened six times. The train eventually left and after another series of delays on the ride home I arrived at Croydon at 02:00.”

“While we were stuck in between stations one woman who had a bladder problem had to try and get through two carriages to get to the toilet, only to find out that they were out of order. She eventually wet herself, luckily everyone was really nice about it but you can’t begin to imagine how embarrassing that was.”

Lawrence is not alone in his frustration, commuters from across the south of England have been victim to the failings of service providers.

In an address to the House of Commons yesterday, Chris Philp, the MP for Croydon South called for GTR to be stripped of their franchise, saying: “The performance of GTR has been abysmal, not just for the past few weeks but for a number of years.”

However, commuters are apprehensive that no matter who holds the franchise problems will continue. “I used to live in West London and the trains were run by South West train and they were pretty awful, eventually they were stripped of their franchise, and it was given to another company. Apparently, it is now even worse, so maybe the problem is with the whole franchise system,” Lawrence said.

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