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News media are reporting that the Department for Transport is drawing up plans to strip the operator of Great Northern rail services of its franchises if a new interim timetable does not improve reliability sufficiently.

govia train at palmers green

Govia Thameslink Railway: Truly a "crap" service

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is due to introduce the interim timetable on 15th July.  The aim is to create timetables for Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern services that the company will be able to deliver, thus ending the chaotic situation which has reigned since the May timetable changes and has reportedly seen cancellation or severe delays affecting around 20,000 trains over a six-week period.  According to GTR, the interim timetable "prioritises peak-hours services and reduces service gaps" and is a "key stage in our work to provide a more reliable service to passengers over the coming months".

Though disruption of trains on the Hertford Loop, which serves Palmers Green, has been much less severe than on longer-distance services, the situation is hardly normal.  For instance, during last Friday's afternoon rush hour the sole GTR employee at Highbury and Islington was complaining over the PA system that he was not been provided with information about trains that were running, apologising for the "crap" service, suggesting that passengers should take photographs of the train indicator as evidence when submitting claims for compensation, and warning that there would be no Welwyn services for at least 80 minutes.

Currently Great Northern's website has timetables which have "been revised to show services we are planning to operate". The website warns that "There may be additional on-the-day alterations to Thameslink and Great Northern services; which we will advise you of as early as possible by updating Journey Planners and Live Departure Boards. It is essential that you visit and recheck your journey as close to your time of travel as possible.  If you are planning to travel on Saturdays or Sundays, please plan your journey by visiting and using the journey planner. Once again it is essential that you recheck your journey at as close to your time of travel as possible for on-the-day alterations."

As always, the most comprehensive explanation of what has gone wrong appears on the London Reconnections website.  This supports the claim by trade unionists that the DfT itself bears much of the blame for the chaos.  The same point was made to me by a GTR public relations officer who I met at the Bohem brewery opening party.  He was a strong defender of Govia and of privatised railways in general, but said that the number of civil servants employed by the DfT had been cut back so severely in recent years that the department was no longer capable of adequately exercising its functions - which implies that some of the blame attaches to the person in charge of the DfT, Chris Grayling.

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Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #3946 04 Jul 2018 10:36
“The train has been delayed due to congestion caused by earlier delays”, so the announcer informed us as we waited at a south London station yesterday. What the earlier delays were caused by we were only left to postulate, but at least had lots of unexpected time to do so.

But not as bad as my son’s recent journey to Exeter, where the human-packing was so efficient he was physically unable to put two feet on the ground and spent the whole journey with one foot on top of the other. (My daughter conversely took up in the cleaner’s cupboard.) A typical late afternoon trip to the south west they were informed. Young and fit, it seems things were not pretty for many other travellers not in such a category.

Having successfully battled through the 57 million ticket combinations to pay some apparently random journey fee it seems harsh to then have such additional barriers throw in the way of your rail trip.
PGC Webmaster's Avatar
PGC Webmaster posted a reply #3949 05 Jul 2018 00:27
The Mayor of London and his deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, are lobbying to take over the Moorgate services currently run by Govia Thameslink Railway under the Great Northern Metro name.

TfL’s record of running successful rail services in the capital shows that giving it control of GTR’s beleaguered routes out of Moorgate is a no-brainer.

“The Mayor has offered the immediate assistance of TfL staff to work with the DfT [Department for Transport] to make the franchise work better, ahead of TfL being ready to take over the entire service in 2020.”

See for more details
Andrew Stedman's Avatar
Andrew Stedman posted a reply #3950 05 Jul 2018 07:44
I hesitate to say something nice about Great Northern, given the cancellations and appalling state of their trains, but the increased frequency on the Hertford Loop has generally worked well for me on my journey from Palmers Green to Highbury and Islington. I have been able to get a seat on most services, though I am in the fortunate position of travelling a bit after 9am weekdays. There also seems to have been a reduction in the number of half-length trains, a feature i found particularly annoying.

The half-hourly service at the weekends remains a disgrace,
David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #3955 05 Jul 2018 10:10
I don't like the new loop times so much. I get the early services between 0630 and 0700. I found the old 0632 and 0646 much better timed for me personally and especially the 0646 being a quick service - they're all 18 mins to H&I from PG now, all quicks removed.

I always get a seat though now, on the 0642 or 0651, which is nice. And we seem to escape the worst of the cancellations - though random ones are still happening.
Adrian Day's Avatar
Adrian Day posted a reply #3971 15 Jul 2018 23:33
The 'service' dropped to new depths today (Sunday 15th July). First day of the third new timetable in as many months. Palmers Green to Finsbury Park reduced to one an hour - but the 10.37 actually one every two hours. On my return the 20.00 at Finsbury Park showed as running - then 5 mins late...then delayed..then disappears - so next train 21.00 (guy on platform says they have no drivers). I've used PG station for 26 years and I'm reasonably sure this is the worst it's ever been.

Oh and the app which gives updated train times was only showing cancelled trains or tomorrow's trains - it couldn't show running trains. You couldn't make it up.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #3972 16 Jul 2018 15:31
The interim timetable that started yesterday can be downloaded from

The offpeak service through Palmers Green was increased to four trains an hour, at 15 minute intervals, in May. It has now reverted to three trains an hour, but instead of being spaced evenly the pattern is now 10 40 55 past the hour into Moorgate, in other words the trains at 25 past the hour have simply been deleted, leaing a 30 minute gap.

Judging from a fairly cursory glance, the evening offpeak pattern is the same.

And still there are cancellations!

In my view, this new timetable is simply not acceptable. At the very least we need an evenly spaced three trains an hour. And continuing cancellations just add insult to injury.

The message needs to be sent to the government that Govia must Go!

[Thanks to Garry Humphries for bringing this to my attention]
Adrian Day's Avatar
Adrian Day posted a reply #3973 16 Jul 2018 21:55
The much trumpeted improvements have melted away - we're worse off than before.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #3974 17 Jul 2018 13:17
Frankly guys I wonder if you’re peddling “fake news” because if you look at the public position of the operator and the latest results from the major shareholder of the JV you will see that (and here I lift word for word):
• Govia has extensive experience running complex and challenging rail operations, managing significant change programmes,
• Go-Ahead (that's the majority shareholder in the JV) is a high quality transport operator with an industry leading position in the bus and rail sectors
• Good first half performance; full year expectations increase, due to one-off rail benefits
• Rail division results ahead of expectations for the half year – reported operating profit of £40.3m (H1’17: £26.6m), including one-off rail benefits
• Progress in all three Group strategic objectives: protect and grow the core, win new bus and rail contracts and develop for future transport needs
• During the period we have delivered improvements to support our strategy and deliver benefits to passengers.
• Our established bus and rail businesses continue to demonstrate the value private companies bring through the delivery of customer-focused public-sector transport services
• We are confident that our strategy will continue to deliver value to customers, colleagues, society and shareholders over the long-term

So that’s OK then.