Update from County Councillor Becky Rush:
A couple of weeks ago myself, Claire Coutinho MP and Lesley Steeds (county councillor Lingfield division) had a meeting with the train operator to discuss the timetable situation with the trains.
4 members of the train operator met with us: the Network Operations Director, Train Services Director, Public Relations and a stakeholder manager.
The crux of the problem is train driver availability caused by the pandemic (though not actual covid infection rates, more problems associated with rules around number of drivers in cabs for training and safety assessments etc). They usually run at around 9% unavailable drivers and it is currently c 20%.
In July an Emergency timetable was issued to manage certainty of trains with the increasing % of short notice sickness.
As we know following this an updated timetable was issued in September completely removing the Thameslink from the line and further reducing the Victoria line service.
The essential question is when will services be reintroduced?
Commuters may have noticed that the 0738 London Bridge service has been reintroduced last week.
I was pleased to hear that there is a weekly mechanism for adding trains back into the timetable. The process means that the service has to be added on a daily basis for 2 weeks and then will form part of the timetable. They generally tweet out the additional services, however it was agreed that Claire, Lesley and myself would be directly informed so we could share the news with commuters via face book.
They hope to reinstate the 1811 within the next couple of weeks and also are looking, drivers permitting, and adding another morning train. Progressively it is hoped more trains will be added in this way.
Additions to the service will go on in this vein until a new timetable is issued in December 2021. This will reinstate the service to may 2021 levels. I made it clear that this was already a reduced service and they will look into that.
All of this is subject to any further lockdowns etc but if everything remains ok then a full pre pandemic service is anticipated Dec 2022 but they are aiming for May 2022.
Having listened to the operator and their procedures for reintroducing trains and dealing with the driver shortages I believe that there is no incentive for them to not run trains – they are currently bearing the costs of empty trains and drivers. They haven’t given up the train paths (or any trains) and are planning on reintroducing.
As well as the rapid reintroduction of the 1811 from London Bridge and an additional morning train the following was also discussed and agreed:
– they will look at reintroducing the stops on the Uckfield trains. I moved here 11 years ago and had the choice of both lines, that disappeared at some point but reintroduction would provide more choices.
– they will look at the timetable and platforms for changing to improve East Croydon connections
– they will look at the spacing out if the service for eg oxted trains which have a 4min gap then 56min gap
– they can see live data if residents using services, I pointed out that many residents are travelling to Purley (not good for roads or environment) and they confirmed they could see this pattern and were well aware it was due to the service on the East Grinstead line
Claire, Lesley and myself will be keeping very close to this over the coming months to hold the train operator to account on this.