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bambos letter to gtrIn 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.

In the letter, sent on 30th July, the MP says that "There can be no excuse for having insufficient drivers to run the trains that Great Northern have advertised", calling it "a fundamental breach of duty".  He asks what steps are being taken to reduce cancellations due to no driver, adding: "We must see an improvement and that needs to happen fast."

Cancellations blamed on "staff availability" (in Govia-Speak "availability" actually means "unavailability") have been an almost daily fact of life for Great Northern passengers for more than a year.  The past week has seen a particularly high number of cancelled trains.  Admittedly, overhead line and track problems caused by extreme weather has been a significant factor, but there has also been a larger number than usual of cancellations due to driver unavailability - as always happens during the school holidays.  Despite this, Govia's social media team have continued to tweet the claims of their management that the company has enough drivers.

Someone intensely aware of the chronic cancellations problem is Joanne McCartney, who lives in PG and is the Assembly Member for Enfield and Haringey.  She has been pressing the case for transferring the Moorgate services to Transport for London. 

Angry commuters have also sought assistance from Southgate Green councillor Daniel Anderson:

Letter from Bambos Charalambous MP to the managing director of Govia Thameslink Railway

Mr Tom Moran
Managing Director
Govia Tharneslink Railway,
2nd Floor, Monument Place,
24 Monument Street,

Our Ref: BC14381
30 July 2019

Dear Tom Moran,

Re: Train cancellations due to lack of drivers

I have been contacted by a number of constituents who are rightly frustrated that their journeys to and from work have been delayed due to the cancellation of their train service because of lack of drivers. Yesterday was one of the worst days ever when five trains out of nine were cancelled between 17.03 and 18.03 from Highbury & Islington to stations in my constituency of Enfield Southgate and beyond.

This level of performance is totally unacceptable and although particularly bad on Fridays and at weekends it has deteriorated and is now affecting peak time journeys too.

There can be no excuse for having insufficient drivers to run the trains that Great Northern have advertised in their timetable on a daily basis. This is a fundamental breach of duty. My constituents and I rely on your train service to get us in and out of central London and we should not have to put up with a sub standard service.

Whilst the new trains are a welcome improvement the cancellations undermine trust and confidence in Great Nodhern.

Please can you advise me what steps you are taking to improve the local service and reduce the level of train cancellations due to no driver.

We must see an improvement and that needs to happen fast.

I would expect any responsible employer to provide decent terms and conditions for all their staff and to ensure that cover is provided where necessary.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely

Bambos Charalambous MP

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David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #4714 31 Jul 2019 17:18
Given the eye-watering salary packages train drivers have blackmailed, making them some of the best paid people in the country for the least amount of hours worked, you'd think they could actually turn up for work.

Unsurprising really that the issues happen most on Fridays and weekends....
Neil Littman's Avatar
Neil Littman posted a reply #4725 01 Aug 2019 11:24
Was there an auto spell error? The main article was headed:
Politicians pass on passengers' compliments to Govia Thameslink Railway

Think that should have read 'complaints'?
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #4726 01 Aug 2019 14:04

Neil Littman wrote: Was there an auto spell error? The main article was headed:
Politicians pass on passengers' compliments to Govia Thameslink Railway

Think that should have read 'complaints'?

Sorry, a bit too cryptic. In my headline "compliments" is to "complaints" as "availability" is to "unavailability" in the train cancellation announcements made by Great Northern.

(In case anyone's wondering what this is all about, Neil was referring to the headline of an item in today's Weekly Newsletter.)

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

  • 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

  • 19 May 2019

60 years ago: New trains, a new school, a new garden for the blind and a famous Mayor

In 2019 we have been reporting about the introduction of new trains for Palmers Green and plans for new schools in the north west of the borough. 60 years ago PG was also celebrating new trains, and a new school was being built in Oakwood. And the Mayor at the time was someone whose name remains well known in Palmers Green. All this and more event in Broomfield Park can be discovered in Southgate Newsreel No 1. Read more