Overcrowding, delays and cancellations on the King’s Lynn to London rail line have come under the spotlight with a damning report into the service provided by Govia Thameslink Railways (GTR).
The report, published by the Transport Committee this week, heavily criticised the timetable changes made in May and said it was “extraordinary” no one took charge of the chaos which followed.
GTR, which runs Great Northern, Thameslink and Southern, will be allowed to keep hold of the franchise –Britain’s biggest – but must now contribute £15m towards “tangible improvements for customers,” the Department for Transport has ruled.
The committee also said transport secretary Chris Grayling should have taken a more proactive approach and a “genuine change” was needed to restore trust in the rail service.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said passengers on the Lynn line, operated by Great Northern, should not “experience delays, cancellations and overcrowding at such an alarming rate”.
Ms Truss said: “I am incredibly frustrated by the service on the Lynn to London line.
“It is not good enough and I have raised my concerns with Chris Grayling. Before the May timetable was implemented, I met GTR senior staff to highlight my concerns.
“Unfortunately, there are still problems on the route and I know residents and businesses are extremely angry by the ongoing problems.
“But also Network Rail must do much better. This week a replacement bus service was in place between Ely and Downham Market due to broken track on the single line at Littleport, adding further misery for passengers.
“However the bottom line is that rail users need to know that projects will be delivered, that they have a reliable train service and that capacity will be increased to accommodate demand – regrettably this is not happening as quickly as it should and I am heavily lobbying the Department for Transport on this matter.’’
The RMT (Rail Maritine and Transport union) this week called on the transport secretary to resign.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “Chris Grayling’s half-hearted slap on the wrists for GTR is a pathetic insult to the many thousands of passengers who have suffered daily misery at the hands of this basket case franchise.
“By refusing to strip them of the contract they are being given yet another licence to carry on with chaos.”
The Department for Transport launched a sweeping review of Britain’s railways in September with reforms expected to begin in 2020.
As part of the sanctions imposed, GTR will make no profit from its franchise this financial year and the government has capped the amount of profit it can make for the remainder of its franchise, due to expire in 2021.