Published:
8:19 PM March 27, 2022



The company behind Thameslink and Great Northern trains will continue to operate commuter services until at least 2025.

The government has said Govia, which has run the service since 2014, could extend its contract to run the trains in London and south-east England.

Passengers said the move was ‘beyond laughable’ and accused Thameslink and Great Northern of running poor service.

But MP Wendy Morton, Minister for Railways, welcomed the company’s new plan to improve the punctuality, reliability and accessibility of its services.

She said: “As the UK’s largest rail operator, I know GTR will play a key role in helping the government continue to deliver our plan for rail and revolutionize the lives of passengers.

“With their plans to improve the punctuality, reliability and accessibility of their service through close collaboration with Network Rail, we are proud to partner with GTR to create a truly passenger-focused service.”

Mark, from Sandridge, Hertfordshire, said there were “many failures” with the service.


A Thameslink train in St Albans City, Hertfordshire
– Credit: Peter Alvey Photographer

He said: “The train service is a joke.

“Previously seven trains per hour was 18 – the Covid excuse is running out.

“Not enough drivers since they took over the contract in 2014, plus many more failures.

“Just ask anyone who’s had the misfortune of having to commute with them.”

Tom, a commuter, said: “It’s almost laughable that an organization that has one of the most profitable commuter lines in the country can manage such poor service and still have contracts renewed.

“There is no accountability from central government and minimal pressure from MPs to hold them to account.”

Cal, from St Albans, said: “It’s been a bit of a joke since 2014.

“I don’t really use them anymore because it’s too stressful to play a bet and get stuck on a rammed train.”


Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern is the country's largest rail franchise, serving several key travel hubs

Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern is the country’s largest rail franchise, serving several key travel hubs such as Cambridge, Brighton and London Bridge
– Credit: PA/Dominic Lipinski

The franchise is divided into three brands – Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern.

It is the largest in the country, with 235 stations and 7,400 staff, covering Hampshire and Brighton to Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire and Norfolk.

The company deployed Class 700 flagship trains for use across London between 2016 and 2018.

It introduced a new Cambridgeshire service to Sussex in 2018.

According to the Office of Road and Rail, an above-average percentage of Thameslink trains arrive at their destination within 15 minutes of their scheduled time – 98.8% compared to 98.5% nationally.

But just 3.7% of trains were canceled nationwide, compared to 5.2% on the Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern network.


Before Govia agreed to the contract, the Thameslink and Great Northern franchise was operated by First Group

Before Govia agreed to the contract, the Thameslink and Great Northern franchise was operated by First Group
– Credit: Kevin Lines

Govia recently suffered financial penalties for breaching its franchise agreements.

He was stripped of the South East franchise between London and Kent in October 2021 for “breaches of good faith”.

The company – which was run jointly with French firm Keolis – failed to report £25m of historic taxpayer funding which should have been returned.

He was hit with a £23.5million fine in connection with the March 17 incident.

MP Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said: ‘I have taken decisive action and have not renewed the contract with Southeastern following this appalling breach of trust.


The South East has been hit with a government fine of £23.5m

Southeastern, which was run by Govia until it was stripped of the franchise, has been hit with a £23.5m government fine
– Credit: PA/Gareth Fuller

But Thameslink operators have promised to improve the customer experience.

The company has set aside funds for localized station improvements, community-led projects, and projects to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

It will phase out its entire diesel fleet by 2035 and aim for 2.5% of its workforce to be new hires through an apprenticeship program.


In its extended franchise, Govia wants to encourage more passengers to return to trains

In its extended franchise, Govia wants to encourage more passengers to return to trains
– Credit: PA/Nigel Spreadborough/Location Photography

Govia is jointly owned by the Go-Ahead group and Keolis UK.

Christian Schreyer, CEO of Go-Ahead, said: “Under this new contract, we will build on our performance improvement achievements over the past few years.

“A top priority is to rebuild passenger numbers after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Go-Ahead will bring business acumen and international experience to encourage people to come back to the railways.”

Alistair Gordon, of Keolis UK, said: “We are delighted that the hard work of the GTR team – particularly over the past difficult years – has been recognised.

“We are particularly encouraged by the commitment to an ambitious green program and the reinforcement of the company’s passenger-centric approach during the contract.”

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