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great northern class 313 being towed through finsbury park station

A withdrawn class 313 train being towed by a diesel engine through Finsbury Park station en route to the next phase of its long career

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?

"Tangible benefits"

The passenger benefit fund, totalling £15 million, has been set up at the behest of the secretary of state for transport and is to be used to produce "tangible benefits" for users of Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern services (all operated by GTR) who were affected by last year's travel disruption.  Decisions on how to spend the money at each affected station will be made based on proposals made by "passenger groups and other stakeholders".  More information about how the scheme will work and how much particular benefits might cost can be found at

Cancellations are still a daily occurrence

The scheme rather implies that the travel disruption was in the past - there's no hint that cancellations, often at the last minute, are still a daily occurrence on the Great Northern routes.  For clear signs of growing passenger anger and frustration you only have to follow the @GNRailUK feed on Twitter.  As usual, there were a huge number of cancellations throughout the recent school holiday week and they continued into the following Monday morning.  Here are some more polite tweets from frustrated passengers:

Govia has recently been stating that it has enough drivers and more are being trained.  But it is getting on for four years since they took over the Great Northern services and throughout that period there have been frequent cancellations due to staff unavailability, especially during school holidays and on Sundays (Sunday services rely entirely on voluntary restday working).  (It must be pointed out, however, that problems last weekend and this week have been mainly caused by signalling failures, for which Govia bears to responsibility.)

Light at the end of the tunnel?

great northern petitionThe good news is that it seems that the secretary of state for transport, Chris Grayling, may eventually relent on his refusal heretofore to to devolve Great Northern Metro services into the hands of a Labour mayor (ie to Transport for London).  And, of course, major ministerial changes will come about this summer and we may have a new secretary of state anyway.  Under pressure from Enfield & Haringey assembly member Joanne McCartney, who sits on the GLA transport committee, TfL Commissioner Mike Brown says his team is "beavering away" on a bid to take over the Moorgate services.  He is more optimistic that agreement can be reached - it's no longer "like pulling teeth" (see the report on page 6 of the June Enfield Dispatch).

If you'd like to help hurry this process along a bit, there's an online petition calling for a TfL or LNER takeover - though so far it's only garnered a few votes (maybe people aren't aware of it).

So as we wait to find out whether that really is light at the end of the tunnel that we are seeing, let's have a think about how best to spend the £80,000...

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Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #4596 12 Jun 2019 14:21
A coordinated single-voice for this £80,000 opportunity seems to make sense. I’m not aware of a PG passenger group so wonder if Fox Lane RA, possibly with the new PG Action Team on operations, makes sense as a unifying body?
It seems a good opportunity and worth more than flashier-than-now-wc’s, notice boards and such. Once upon a time the waiting room was used as an art gallery. Perhaps more relevant to the list of provided examples could be to bring to life the oft floated idea of opening up and turning the wilderness behind the wooden fence on Platform 1 into a garden and seating area; a calming space for when the train is delayed / cancelled and at all other times.
Using local hands a sum of £80,000 seems large enough to make a serious inroad into such a vision.
It’ll be interesting to hear of other suggestions.
Garry Humphreys's Avatar
Garry Humphreys posted a reply #4601 13 Jun 2019 11:35
It seems entirely illogical that, not being part of the Overground, we not only have lousy services but also pay more for our journeys when TfL passengers in Hertfordshire (as far out as Cheshunt and Watford Junction) enjoy these benefits! If this decision is largely due to Grayling, then here is yet another politician serving the party rather than the people.

Also, what happened to the plan to open up the 'back' entrance to Platform 1 at Palmers Green (from the shuttered entrance between 24 and 26 Alderman's Hill to the right of the station buildings) to allow disabled access? Whose responsibility is that, and can this plan be resuscitated?

As for the new trains: I'm no longer a daily commuter but still travel fairly often, and nine times out of ten (literally) it's one of the old trains that comes. Just how many new trains have they actually got?

Why is there a driver problem? One wonders if it is not something to do with management and manager-driver relations. Perhaps someone can tell us?
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #4603 13 Jun 2019 14:57
“Driver problem”? in successfully winning a franchise, and on the basis income is pretty much fixed, the means to promise the best reward is by hitting your cost line. The new train operator will have pretty much the same everything as the old one. That means the only realistic opportunity to save more than the last franchise holder is in that inevitably relatively big cost line of staff and staff related things like training. Tell the awarding body one thing (£), tell the public another (loads of trains, loads of drivers) and then go ahead and reduce (staff) costs as far as possible so as to extract the maximum amount of money possible while trapped punters scream. Repeat same with the next franchisee a few years hence. There’s little suggestion that what we suffer locally is UK-unique in this wealth extraction world of rail travel.
Bill Linton's Avatar
Bill Linton posted a reply #4607 14 Jun 2019 16:21
What Karl seems to be suggesting (and I agree) is renationalisation of the railways. He has graphically illustrated the problems with privatisation - and not just of the railways, the same is happening to the NHS and in several other areas.
Daniel Marrs-Gant's Avatar
Daniel Marrs-Gant posted a reply #4610 16 Jun 2019 22:18
Thanks for sharing my petition.

Just thought it would be worth saying that Govia actually knew it had too few drivers at the start of the franchise, and so did the DfT, but again this is not acceptable, they set them up to fail.

London Overground will take over the service, its now just a question of when. The latest it will be is 2021 when the franchise expires, but I'm hoping it will happen by the end of this year, I think it is very much possible that could happen.