Mark challenges rail company

Mark Prisk has challenged Govia Thameslink railway over its service along the Hertford loop. In a letter and email to Katherine Cox, Stakeholder Manager he has raised a series of complaints made by commuters about the poor punctuality and unreliability of the service. He has also asked about the new delayrepay scheme and when commuters can start claiming.

The text of the email and letter reads:

"Dear Ms Cox

I am writing to you again because my constituents are still enduring an unreliable and inadequate service. There are regular cancellations, either because the rolling stock is breaking down or because of staff shortages. Your PPM record remains notably below those of other routes and I have also had complaints about your customer service team in the restrictive way they deal with compensation claims.

Whilst I disagree with the RMT for their industrial action, the ultimate responsibility for the service rests with your company and its management. At present my constituents continue to feel that the company is failing in its duty.

What confidence can my constituents have that the service will be more reliable? How will the new delayrepay scheme operate and from when? Can you confirm when the current ageing rolling stock will be seen at Hertford North station? I shall post this letter onto my website and your reply, so my constituents can see for themselves."


Following this letter Mark received a response from Govia on the 19th of October. Please see below:

The trains that currently run on the Hertford Loop are approximately 40 years old and as such are becoming harder to maintain and spare parts are becoming obsolete. We have extremely limited spare trains when they do break down, and the train involved in the recent Welwyn Garden City incident will be put further stress on the situation for a reasonable period while we repair the damage. However to help resolve the situation we are looking at changing the general maintenance programme to free up as many spare trains as possible. This will only become possible when more Class 387 trains operate on the network from early November.

We will be replacing the oldest trains that currently operate on the Welwyn Garden City and Hertford Inner Suburban services into Moorgate. The tender exercise has been completed and we are working with Siemens on the final design of the train. There will be 25 fixed-formation six-carriage trains (150 carriages replacing the current 132 carriages) providing much-needed capacity on the line. Features include: air conditioning, modern passenger information systems and 2x2 seating. We expect these trains to start coming into service in the late spring of 2018, with the full fleet in service by the end of that year.

Services have been impacted by a series of infrastructure failings; including overhead wires downs and point failures, temporary shortage of drivers and external factors; including fatalities and cows on the line. The train derailment in September at Welwyn Garden City resulted in 958 delay minutes and 14 cancellations, in addition to a fatality at New Barnet in late August that resulted in 2104 delay minutes and 31 cancellations. Delays will result in driver and stock displacement, because our drivers are trained to drive all routes it means that disruption in Peterborough or Cambridge can impact Hertford Loop services. Cancellations due to temporary shortage of train crew has reduced over the last couple of weeks and we’re working hard to resolve this by running the UK’s largest driver recruitment and training scheme. Since January 2015 120 trainees have started training and 81 drivers have qualified. Our driver recruitment and training programme will continue beyond our current timetable needs. We have a target establishment level of drivers of 381; our plan for the next year is to have 40 more beyond that number to allow us to provide a very robust level of drivers on shift, have the ability to cope with any further training as the new trains come on line, and ensure that we can manage with staff turnover.

As you have referenced rail passengers will soon be able to claim compensation if their train is more than 15 minutes late under an improved compensation scheme announced on 13 October by the Department for Transport. The new Delay Repay scheme will be introduced in the next few months on all of our services - Southern, Great Northern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express and then rolled out across the country. Passengers will be able to claim 25% of the cost of the single fare for delays between 15 and 29 minutes. We are working hard behind the scenes to put the processes in place to allow us to administrate the new delay repay scheme and will be issuing communications to passengers and stakeholders in the coming months when the scheme is live.  When passengers are delayed, they deserve compensation and we strongly advise all our passengers to make a claim. This announcement will be good news for those with shorter journeys who think it is unfair they receive nothing for delays under 30 minutes. The new Delay Repay 15 compensation scheme is another example of the changes being made to improve the services we offer our customers. Since 1 October we updated the way customers could receive their compensation, including electronic bank transfer (BACS) and PayPal.

Mark said "Clearly there will be disruptions at times on the line but hopefully these improvements will start to provide a smoother service. I am glad the Govia are implementing a better compensation claim system. The previous system meant that many people, while delayed significantly, fell outside of the window to claim compensation."

Mark will continue to press Govia to implement these improvements as speedily as possible. 


Please follow him on twitter (@PriskMark) and his e-newsletter Portcullis (which you can sign up for on the right hand side of the home page) for updates on this and other matters.


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Mark Prisk's Letter to Ms Cox at GTR.pdf 173.84 KB