Thameslink bosses have apologised for a driver shortage which has led to delays, cancellations and overcrowding on its services.
In a letter to the Mid Sussex Times, Larry Heyman, Integration & Partnership Manager at Thameslink, said the reason for the shortage was “the exceptionally high level of training required ahead of the three year closure of our cross-London route through London Bridge.”
Commuter Stephen Smith wrote to transport secretary Patrick Mcloughin this week after the number of trains to London Bridge stopping at Haywards Heath station between 6am and 7am was reduced from five to three.
In the email, which was also sent to MP Sir Nicholas Soames, Mr Smith, from Haywards Heath, says: “Based on many years experience on this route I can reliably tell you that the previous 5 services had become more and more crowded from Haywards Heath, with the last of them rarely offering a seat at all.
“I have raised this with both companies (Southern and Thameslink) and only Thameslink have attempted a response. That is that the reduction is due to engineering works and ‘improvements’ at London Bridge which will now go on until around 2018.
“Effectively daily commuters are being asked to pay more than £4,000 per annum out of taxed income for what inevitably will be a cattle class standard service. While I am no engineering expert, the number of platforms available at London Bridge at any one time does not appear to be smaller going into 2015 and the new reduced timetable.”
In parliament, Sir Nicholas Soames also raised the issue of driver shortages with the MP, citing problems on the East Grinstead to Victoria line.
He said: “May I ask my right hon. Friend to turn his attention to the East Grinstead to Victoria line, which has been running with similar impediments and terrible inconvenience, largely because the rail companies cannot get enough people to drive the trains?
“Drivers are available, but they are apparently taking part in training courses.
“Things would be in a pretty pickle if British Airways did not have enough pilots, would they not?”
Sir Nicholas will lead a delegation to meet with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport at the Department for Transport on Wednesday, 14 January to discuss the rail performance in his constituency.
n Turn to page 25 to read the Thameslink letter in full.