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A tweet by Joanne McCartney AM, a member of the London Assembly's Transport Committee, has revived hopes that the train service into Moorgate might be transferred to Transport for London (TfL):

We've been here before, of course, back in 2016, only to find that proposals to transfer ours and other suburban services to TfL were vetoed by transport secretary Chris Grayling on the grounds that there might be a future Mayor of London who was a member of the Labour Party.  I'm not aware that there are commuters who boycott the tube because the current Mayor of London is a Labour member, but for all I know they may exist and, after all, Mr Grayling is celebrated for his good judgement and excellent decision-making, so who am I to question this line of reasoning?  He must be doing something right to have stayed in his post while all around ministers have been coming and going.  Let's hope that this longevity in the job has given him the time to rethink his policy with regard to TfL running more rail services.

Be that as it may, there's no doubt that the present operator, Govia Thameslink Railway, has not been running the Great Northern services in a satisfactory way and that commuters in Palmers Green and all along the line are heartily sick of the bad service.

Is it all Govia's fault?  Almost certainly not.  The Department for Transport and Network Rail must share some of the blame for the chaos that followed the introduction of "improved" services, and probably also the manufacturer of the new trains, whose entry into service has been delayed.

palmers green stationTypically scruffy Govia train at Palmers Green

The biggest cause of commuters' woe has been the chronic shortage of drivers.  This was inherited from First Capital Connect and was a known problem when Govia bid for the franchise. Their efforts to plug the driver shortfall have clearly not succeeded (though things do now seem to be improving on that front).  Perhaps they didn't try hard enough, but alternatively, perhaps there just aren't enough people wanting to drive trains?

However, I think there are some aspects of the unsatisfactory service where Govia bears the blame.  The infuriating failure to properly explain what has gone wrong when there has been disruption.  The absurd announcements that a train has been cancelled "due to staff availability", when they actually mean that staff (ie drivers) are unavailable.  The failure, until very recently, to make any attempt to spruce up the dismal platforms at Highbury & Islington and Essex Road.  Above all, the total neglect for the appearance of the old trains, after four or five years still in Capital Connect livery and exceedingly scruffy, when the sun shines brightly the water stains on the windows make it difficult to see out.  This neglect rather suggests that Govia are taking their "customers" for granted -  and surely one of the supposed advantages of privatisation is that commercial operators respond to their customers?

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Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #4539 15 May 2019 22:14
I don't get the train very often these days, but I did go up to Gordon Hill this afternoon. Looking online, I found that there were cancellations - I had been hoping that they were becoming a thing of the past, and I was hoping to finally travel on one of the new trains, but that hope was dashed too.

However, there is some good news. The invaluable website iansvisits.co.uk reports that

Govia Thameslink Railway has started improving the sub-surface platforms of Moorgate, Old Street, Essex Road and Highbury & Islington.


noting that

The stations form part of the Northern City Line operated by Great Northern to and from Hertford and Welwyn Garden City and have experienced years of underinvestment.


though it seems that Govia isn't bearing the costs involved:

Govia Thameslink Railway says that it is making £400,000 of initial improvements from the National Stations Improvement Fund to the fabric of the station platforms.


Ian writes that Govia are replacing "grubby" wayfinding and station signs dating back to the days of British Rail Network South East "or earlier" and that information screens showing Great Northern trains are being installed in the booking halls at Moorgate and Highbury & Islington.

I suppose we must be grateful for small mercies.

See also...

  • 12 September 2019

Great Northern: 'A great deal of focus on reliability and punctuality'

The managing director of Thameslink & Great Northern Railways has written to London Assembly Member Joanne McCartney apologising for poor service and disruption to her constituents and assuring her that 'there is a great deal of focus by our operations teams on reliability and punctuality'. Meanwhile, in the Twittersphere arguments have been raging about whether or not the new trains are better than the old units Read more

  • 31 July 2019

MP demands better train service amid rising passenger anger and frustration

In response to a flood of tweets from angry and frustrated rail passengers, Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous has written to the managing director of Govia Thameslink Railway to complain about the continuing high incidence of cancellations due to driver unavailability on routes serving stations in his constituency. Read more

  • 11 June 2019

Govia 'passenger benefits': How about reliable train services?

Palmers Green is one of a long list of railway stations where money for improvements is being made available from Govia Thameslink Railway's passenger benefit fund, which has been set up to provide some sort of compensation to people whose journeys were severely disrupted by the chaotic introduction of new timetables in May 2018. Palmers Green station is in Tier 1 and £80,000 is being allocated. But are GTR yet capable of delivering the most important passenger benefit - a reliable train service? If not, is it high time that the Moorgate services were transferred to Transport for London? Read more