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the Increasingly Frustrating Thameslink

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Bishopstone

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An honest statement from the top.

It does get better immediately in the new year:

1) the training for TLP reduces considerably
2) annual leave requests drop
3) the Christmas bills come in, meaning overtime is more likely to be covered

There is, as ever, stuff that can't be said on here, and will await publication in the book "A Cunning Plan" the memoirs of Bald Rick.

I suspect some long days have been worked in Thameslink Towers!

The good news is welcome. On the other hand, everything to/from the Brighton main line will be routed via Tulse Hill. Will we get to the New Year without a serious train or infrastructure failure on this section, I wonder? And some of the pathings must be pretty tight, I guess?
 
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Bald Rick

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I suspect some long days have been worked in Thameslink Towers!

The good news is welcome. On the other hand, everything to/from the Brighton main line will be routed via Tulse Hill. Will we get to the New Year without a serious train or infrastructure failure on this section, I wonder? And some of the pathings must be pretty tight, I guess?

Pathing is actually very generous. The diversion takes 7-8 mins longer than via London Bridge, but to avoid rewriting either the MML or Brighton line timetables, the trains get an extra 15 to slot in the next path.
 

asylumxl

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Absolute rubbish - a worse service than the post Hatfield post corner gauge cracking. (when it was a 12 TPH emergency service all stations to Moorgate only) - if you think they (FCC) handled it well , as they caused it in the first place , then we violently disagree.

People pay a high premium for a so called fast outer suburban service - not some random "all shacks" service wedged to the roof with local London commuters south of Elstree.


Oh, you mean people like me? Commuting five days a week on Thameslink, using the very same Bedford-Brighton services?

As far as I'm aware you pay the same fare irrelevant of whether you get on a Brighton train or a Sutton train. You're not paying a "premium" at all for fast trains. You (and most non-London TL commuters) are however paying extortionate fares.

I'm not even sure how 12tph to Moorgate is even relevant when that's a better frequency than normal and in the near future. And how exactly you think they'd cover such a service with a shortage of drivers is mind boggling.

Was the way FCC dealt with the issue perfect, no. But they did alright within the constraints.

I'm not really buying the idea that FCC created the problem either. Did no such arrangements exist during Govia's abysmal first attempt? What about BR? I'd be very surprised if it didn't.
 

muddythefish

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So they've known that they have had a problem since September. Given that I would have thought they would have an amended timetable prepared rather than sudden multiple ad-hoc cancellations and there would have been more notice of the cancellations, and a generally more controlled situation?

Management failure. Pathetic really.

But the good news is they'll still get their bonus :cry:
 

bramling

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Branling I meant the Inners not the Outer Stoppers so do the all stations services go any faster then 75mph? Guess most they reach is 50mph before they have to stop at next station.


More-or-less true for the inners (WGC & Hertford services), however north of Hatfield the all-stations outers (XX05 and XX35 out of KX) can definitely exceed 75 mph between stations.

GPS measurements show a class 365 can just about reach 100 mph between Stevenage and Hitchin when on the fast lines, and can even touch the 90s between Welwyn North and Knebworth and between Knebworth and Stevenage. North of Hitchin 100 mph could easily be achieved between most stations.

The non-stop run from Potters Bar to Hatfield could also well exceed 75 mph, as could the XX22 and XX52 trains booked on the slow line between Woolmer Green and Stevenage which do not stop at Knebworth.

As I say, marginal improvement, but enough to shave maybe 4 or 5 minutes off, say, a London to Sandy journey. In the 1990s Hitchin to King's Cross was generally achieved in just under 30 minutes, nowadays these sort of timings are the exception and it's rare to complete the journey in less than 32 minutes, sometimes quite a bit more.
 

21C101

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Oh, you mean people like me? Commuting five days a week on Thameslink, using the very same Bedford-Brighton services?

As far as I'm aware you pay the same fare irrelevant of whether you get on a Brighton train or a Sutton train. You're not paying a "premium" at all for fast trains. You (and most non-London TL commuters) are however paying extortionate fares.

I'm not even sure how 12tph to Moorgate is even relevant when that's a better frequency than normal and in the near future. And how exactly you think they'd cover such a service with a shortage of drivers is mind boggling.

Was the way FCC dealt with the issue perfect, no. But they did alright within the constraints.

I'm not really buying the idea that FCC created the problem either. Did no such arrangements exist during Govia's abysmal first attempt? What about BR? I'd be very surprised if it didn't.

WTF??? Excuse me, the constraints were entirely self inflicted. They didn't have enough drivers and were wholly dependent upon them working large amounts of overtime to run the service; and then First Group decided to try and impose a zero percent pay rise on them and, surprise suprise, the drivers didn't want to work any more overtime for two months until the management caved in and gave them a pay rise.

It was a complete fiasco and utter misery to commute through and wholly self inflicted by First, since when its been never glad confident morning again for them.
 

ChiefPlanner

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WTF??? Excuse me, the constraints were entirely self inflicted. They didn't have enough drivers and were wholly dependent upon them working large amounts of overtime to run the service; and then First Group decided to try and impose a zero percent pay rise on them and, surprise suprise, the drivers didn't want to work any more overtime for two months until the management caved in and gave them a pay rise.

It was a complete fiasco and utter misery to commute through and wholly self inflicted by First, since when its been never glad confident morning again for them.

Thanks you - the service became almost unusable for 2 months - (I resorted to gong via Watford a few times)

And the SAC to London rate per mile - at over £4K a year is a high per mile - rather more for 20 miles than other routes for double the distance.
 

asylumxl

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And yet neither of you answered my question. Did Govias first try on Thameslink rely on overtime? Did BR?
By constraints, I meant the number of drivers available to make a service. I don't think it's the fault of the majority of operational staff is it? I don't know if you're aware, but First Capital Connect was compromised more than just of the top management. The majority of them had nothing to do with setting pay rises.
Oh and by the way, nobody is forcing you to use SAC or even live in St Albans. If you feel the fares are an issue then there are alternatives close to St Albans.
 
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Bishopstone

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The whole industry relies upon overtime, doesn't it?

As, in fact, do most other industries. Especially when unpaid overtime worked by managers (and others) is considered.
 

Bald Rick

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And yet neither of you answered my question. Did Govias first try and Thameslink rely on overtime? Did BR?

Yes they did. Perhaps not to the same extent. BUT, and this is the point, BR and the first round of franchises ran a level of spare cover. About a decade or so ago this started being whittled down by most operators, and is now practically non existent. At least with the TOCs I deal with.

The exception is LOROL, who are contracted by TfL to provide a certain level of spare cover.
 

asylumxl

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Yes they did. Perhaps not to the same extent. BUT, and this is the point, BR and the first round of franchises ran a level of spare cover. About a decade or so ago this started being whittled down by most operators, and is now practically non existent. At least with the TOCs I deal with.


The exception is LOROL, who are contracted by TfL to provide a certain level of spare cover.


Thank you. So it's not an issue that was purely confined to FCC.

I'd be interested to know whether or not the rot set in under Thameslink or FCC. If it was literally a decade then it could well have been under Govia.
 

Bald Rick

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Thank you. So it's not an issue that was purely confined to FCC.

I'd be interested to know whether or not the rot set in under Thameslink or FCC. If it was literally a decade then it could well have been under Govia.

I don't know that. But with 'other' TOCs in the southeast, it's happened over the past 5 years or so. Purely by coincidence, reactionary delays have been on an upward trajectory in the past five years, despite the number of delay incidents falling slightly.
 

nidave

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Imagine rocking up at MacDonalds at lunchtime on Saturday only to be told there are no burgers because they couldn't get staff to work on a Saturday?

I hate to be the one to say this but it happens all the time. In my Younger days I was a shift manager at McDonalds, and if we were not always phoning round trying to see if someone would come in and work we were being called up asking if anyone would like to work at another store. One day I had 2 people turn up (the rest phone in sick) and other stores in the area had no one to spare so I had to close the store.

Its also easier to cope in a McDonalds with less people as there are others to do the work - it might be frantic and slower but it can be done.
 

ComUtoR

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Purely by coincidence, reactionary delays have been on an upward trajectory in the past five years, despite the number of delay incidents falling slightly.

I wouldn't say its a coincidence. Historical delay incidents have been almost designed out. Delays are slowly diagrammed out with each timetable change and TOC's have been a bit more clever with how the delays are calculated. Didn't you say in another thread that Cancellations done by the previous day do not count towards PPM ? Am I correct in thinking that Major disruption caused by certain incidents are also removed from PPM ? (that's what the posters say)

Add in Right time railway and how some diagrams have been changed to STP and regular delay minutes compensated for.

Better pathways on both sides (NR/TOC) also help to remove delay minutes on a more permanent basis.

I have also been told specifically to reword delay reporting because it switched attribution to NR and not the TOC.

Reactionary delays will always be there because you just cannot plan for every eventuality.

Thanks to the tenacity of Drivers on TOC's such as Thameslink TOC's being reliant on Rest Day working has become common knowledge and they have almost been forced to recruit and increase SP turns. I know at my TOC that SP turns have been increased over the years and there was a recent increase of bank holiday SP turns (can't remember the %)

As to the situation with training etc at Thameslink. Wasn't a Director removed from her post a few years back because of the failure when the Sevenoaks route was reintroduced to FCC. Training was left to the last minute and SE had to cover lots of the work because of the training shortcomings. I'm not going to place the current crisis directly at GTR Management because I see the bigger picture.

FYI like the above poster I have worked in a previous job where your sitting on the phone ringing round staff and not getting any cover. Staff would often ring in with less than an hour before they were due to start. Sometimes, despite all your best intentions, things can be beyond your control.
 

Bald Rick

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Didn't you say in another thread that Cancellations done by the previous day do not count towards PPM ? Am I correct in thinking that Major disruption caused by certain incidents are also removed from PPM ? (that's what the posters say)

Planned cancellations done prior to the day of the race do not count to PPM, regardless of what is causing it.

Major disruption caused by any incident definitely does count towards PPM. Unless, of course, it is predicted, planned and any cancellations are done the day before - effectively an emergency timetable instituted.
 

21C101

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Yes, but apparently the use of voluntary overtime is specifically the fault of First.

If you are reliant on overtime to run nearly half your trains then you are in a very weak position and for a company in that position to then try imposing a pay freeze is virtually suicidal.

I'm aware that it was a corporate company wide pay freeze not an FCC idea but I dont see how that makes things any better and I dont recall any of the FCC management speaking out publically against imposition of it.
 

David Sinnett

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Out of interest, if a train is cancelled due to lack of driver, does the TOC still pay NR for access to the rails for that service? Perhaps its a payment calculated by the whole year timetable so an individual cancellation doesn't mean anything.
Are payments to the ROSCO / leasing company based on usage or per calendar?
 

asylumxl

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If you are reliant on overtime to run nearly half your trains then you are in a very weak position and for a company in that position to then try imposing a pay freeze is virtually suicidal.


I'm aware that it was a corporate company wide pay freeze not an FCC idea but I dont see how that makes things any better and I dont recall any of the FCC management speaking out publically against imposition of it.


Which they didn't but that is to be expected really. I whole heartedly agree that management was poor.

In my initial post, I said that I felt the disruption caused by the "strike" was handled reasonably well. This was entirely due to operational staff making the best out of a bad situation. But somehow this got turned in to a discussion about management.

I digress.
 

21C101

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According to my national rail app. The 1622, 1652 & 1656 off Blackfriars (1632, 1702 & 1706 off St Pan) to Bedford are all cancelled again today.

Oh joy.
 

W230

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Basically, the information in the post from the Chief Exec is pretty much accurate. Loads of drivers off track for training days including London Bridge LL, 387 training, Clapham Junction training etc etc.

We've loads of drivers in training, loads more waiting to start but have a shortage of driver trainers and they can't be released from the track to be trained because too much uncovered work...

You get the picture, i'm sure but also have no doubt the situation will improve in the new year.
 

jon0844

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If no trains run between now and Christmas, it won't be hard to improve things in the new year!!
 

otomous

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I mean a service industry that hasn't yet worked out that it needs to provide a service when its customers need it, not when it can be bothered to arrange adequate staffing levels. Imagine rocking up at MacDonalds at lunchtime on Saturday only to be told there are no burgers because they couldn't get staff to work on a Saturday? The days of a five-day working week are over. In case the message hasn't percolated through, London is a 24 hour seven day a week city and the people working there need to have reliable affordable transport. Today's cancellation of two consecutive Brighton - Bedford services just at the beginning of the evening peak is inexcusable. The 17.02 service from St Pancras is usually rammed, with overspill being taken by the following train.

There should be enough trained drivers employed to cover ALL rostered turns with PAID cover in the event of sickness/emergency/unforeseen domestic incident. Whatever happened to drivers in a "Spare Link", or did that go the way of BR when Major's Government carved up the system?

Up to now its been a cozy arrangement whereby the management doesn't have to pay the rate that would be needed to ensure weekend and off-peak services run, but it also benefits drivers because they can work rest days and overtime and get paid well over the normal hourly rate.

At present, the drivers' T&C mean they can't be forced to work rest days. I'm not saying they should be forced to, but enjoy the benefits while they last. Eventually there won't be contracts on offer that allow the current practice to continue. Political and consumer pressure will be brought to bear on the issue. The London Underground drivers who strike at the drop of a shop steward's hankie are amongst the most loathed workers in London by those other workers who are inconvenienced by their actions. Why should it be any different when it comes to intransigent main line drivers and incompetent or spineless management?

The same management team (GoVia) at London Midland admitted that most of the weekend trains it runs rely on the goodwill of drivers working rest days. This is what I mean by 19th century staffing practices.

Well I was with you until you referred to mainline drivers as "intransigent". You will find if you do your research that drivers work to a code of practice established after a rather nasty accident at Clapham in 1988. The root cause was a likely fatigued-induced mistake by a signalling engineer, which highlighted the fact that the whole industry was working on the expectation of overtime to dangerous levels. This led to the so-called "Hidden" rules which restricted drivers' working hours. They are not especially generous. It's possible to book off around 2am on a Sunday morning from a late shift to book on again at 4am on a Monday morning for an early shift - think about the effect of that change on your body clock. It's already established that shifts reduce life expectancy with crazy sleeping and eating patterns. This is worse when you work to flexible shifts. And you then have to concentrate non-stop whilst driving. Days off are needed. When drivers work rest days they need an incentive because they are putting their health and their livelihood at risk slightly more than if they just work their rostered days - which are full enough as it is. There is nothing "intransigent" about taking your days off - it's about safeguarding your health, your livelihood and possibly your liberty - not to mention the safety of your passengers. Think about that please.
 

muddythefish

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Basically, the information in the post from the Chief Exec is pretty much accurate. Loads of drivers off track for training days including London Bridge LL, 387 training, Clapham Junction training etc etc.

We've loads of drivers in training, loads more waiting to start but have a shortage of driver trainers and they can't be released from the track to be trained because too much uncovered work...

You get the picture, i'm sure but also have no doubt the situation will improve in the new year.

Management failure. Will heads roll or will they get a bonus for saving the company money ?
 

cjohnson

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Basically, the information in the post from the Chief Exec is pretty much accurate. Loads of drivers off track for training days including London Bridge LL, 387 training, Clapham Junction training etc etc.

Probably missed something somewhere, but why do Thameslink drivers need to know routes at Clapham Jct?
 

otomous

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Just guessing as I don't know but maybe to get 319s from the Grovensor Sheds at Vic to the Brighton line; or so they can divert to Vic if there are issues north of Norwood Junction.
 

ComUtoR

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At present, the drivers' T&C mean they can't be forced to work rest days. I'm not saying they should be forced to, but enjoy the benefits while they last.

Days off from work are not a benefit.

Eventually there won't be contracts on offer that allow the current practice to continue
.

Please explain further. Are you suggesting contractual overtime (fyi it sorta already happens) ? What current contractual practice are you against ? The TOC and the lack of flexibility in the roster or employee rights and their employment contract T&C's

Political and consumer pressure will be brought to bear on the issue.

In what way ? Political pressure works in both directions and working practices are governed by law. Are you suggesting that a TOC is forced to employ a specific staffing level or more employees (that has already happened btw) ?

Will a consumer stomach higher ticket prices as the TOC passes on the cost of employment to the passenger ?
 

Bald Rick

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Out of interest, if a train is cancelled due to lack of driver, does the TOC still pay NR for access to the rails for that service?

Yes.


It's not all bad news. I'm currently sat on a train shown in RTT as cancelled due to 'rostering error' (ie no driver).

However it is very much running, complete with driver!
 
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