Many constituents (as well as myself) have been significantly affected, fed-up and angry with the ongoing, severely reduced weekday timetable Southern and Thameslink have been running since the beginning of the new year, due to a high level of absences, as a result of positive Covid results and long term illnesses among critical railway staff.
I met with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) again this Tuesday (11th January 2022) to re-emphasise the vital need to find a long term solution to the continuous, knock-on effects of these debilitating staff shortages.
By running a reduced service, GTR explained they hope to provide more certainty and fewer unplanned cancellations so customers can plan their journeys. However, I have expressed that the journeys are much longer for customers and are pushing them into peak travel times, thus costing them considerably more money and time.
The main positive which came out of our conversation is that GTR confirmed they will be adding extra services imminently, with the next additional services planned to come in on Monday 17th January.
Pleasingly, a glimmer of progress – further services to and from London Victoria will be added to the current timetable, which currently provide six direct Southern trains per hour to London Victoria - this number will increase to 8 direct trains from Monday 17 January.
Additionally, from next Monday, Arun Valley line services will terminate at London Victoria between 07:00 and 20:00. For constituents in Haywards Heath, this means there will be options to change at Gatwick Airport to join these services as opposed to changing at East Croydon.
Furthermore, ticket acceptance is in place with TfL for customers who wish to travel from London Bridge or Blackfriars to London Victoria. Personally, I was unaware of this and had been unnecessarily purchasing additional travel cards in order to travel from London Bridge. So, I thought it would be helpful for you to know your tickets will be accepted on TfL and here are some useful alternatives:
- Jubilee Line, LBG to Westminster and then change to Circle/District line to Victoria (14 minutes travel time)
- Jubilee Line, LBG to Green Park and then change to the Victoria line (14 minutes)
- Northern Line, LBG to Stockwell and then change to the Victoria line (19 minutes)
- Circle/District line, Blackfriars to Victoria (9 minutes)
It was also very good to hear GTR confirm they will always prioritise and protect the last train services from cancellations, so customers and constituents can get home. I know this is a big worry for many commuters across Mid Sussex – so it was reassuring to have this clarification. I’m often using these services and I can see why constituents are so frustrated.
However, I understand this is still not at all the outcome we all urgently want to see. I made it abundantly clear to GTR that the longer they continue to provide significantly reduced services, the more likely it would be they lose their long term, loyal and high-paying customers from Mid Sussex and beyond as working from home increases and people behave differently as they have to react, including taking the car.
Meanwhile, I have a crucial meeting with the new Minister for Rail, Wendy Morton MP, forthcoming on Monday 17th January. There is clearly a lot of long term planning which is needed, but this does not mean it is acceptable to have a consistently reduced, unreliable service.
As always, I will continue to keep you updated on my discussions and strong representations on your behalf, including my aforementioned, upcoming meeting with the Minister for Rail.