The first week of the £6.5 billion Thameslink program is almost over and how did it do? Ahem. Try to be diplomatic. Not very well.
This post will focus on the Rainham to Luton route via Woolwich and Greenwich and issues raised over the past week. Other routes have had plenty of issues too, but lets focus on just this one for now.
Thameslink started last Sunday. And it started badly. Almost all trains were cancelled. But it was a Sunday and engineering works didn’t make it the easiest of starts.
But the working week would be better right?
Well, not really. Monday actually didn’t start too badly. The morning peak saw most trains running. By midday however cancellations were appearing. It seems the few drivers actually trained on new stock and new routes were working peak time services, which made sense.
It didn’t explain why a project known about for many years still lacked so many trained drivers to operate all day.
By Wednesday the evening peak was a complete no-show.
As the week has continued cancellations continued until the vast majority have not run on Friday morning.
Lets look at Greenwich. Two out of six trains an hour have been taken over by Thameslink. This morning the first three peak trains to central London were cancelled (7:17, 7:47, 8:17) and then the fourth passed through without stopping as it was 13 minutes late leaving Dartford:
This is a worrying prospect. On Wednesday a train passed along the line without stopping as it was only seven minutes late leaving London Bridge.
It didn’t even stop at a major station like Abbey Wood despite running early.
Consider that a full 33% of trains to stations like Greenwich are now Thameslink operated, so if they are going to fun fast if slightly delayed passengers are getting a far inferior service.
When Thameslink does run people have complimented the access to various central London stations, as well as the new trains.
The new trains are nice (though anything would appear to be compared to Southeastern scuzz boxes) but not that great compared to many other franchises. A 90 minute journey from Medway isn’t the most pleasant with a bizarre design choice of panels intruding into footspace if sitting on a window seat.
The big questions now are just how long will it take to train up all drivers? Six months? The silence from Thameslink and owners GoVia (who also operate Southeastern) and MD Charles Horton (who came from Southeastern) is deafening.
How could such an expensive project be introduced seemingly on the fly with such a lack of planning?
And what about Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Much of these issues come from the DfT and pre-date his reign, yet he has been Transport Minister for a year now. What’s he doing?
I’ve also noticed a few cancellations of Southeastern services cropping up due to lacking drivers. It’s believed they are having to assist Thameslink affecting their own services.
And even if that is sorted, if trains are passing through all stations from London Bridge to Slade Green when just seven minutes late what service can the line expect in coming years?
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