Train operator Govia Thameslink are considering reducing services on major commuter lines into London, in anticipation of the end of “big spikes in rush-hour commuting”, according to reports.
The train company operates the Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern lines which hundreds of thousands of people commuting into London and other cities use every day.
The news, first reported by The Telegraph, that peak time train services for thousands of London commuters could be permanently cut comes as pandemic restrictions ease and offices grapple with how to encourage staff to return in person.
In an internal memo sent to MPs and campaign groups, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) said that there were likely to be fewer trains at peak times of travel, though more trains will run on Saturdays than weekdays for leisure travellers.
According to The Telegraph the GTR memo, sent on Thursday, read: “Customers rightly demand a reliable train service. What the past showed is that running more and more trains on fundamentally the same infrastructure inevitably resulted in delays and disruption on a congested network, with a small delay to one train rapidly having a network-wide impact on many more passengers, creating a domino effect.”
“We know how frustrating this is. It was the right timetable for a world characterised by big spikes in rush-hour commuting demand, but it is not right now, and is unlikely to be the right approach in the future.
“Over the past 18 months, we prioritised services for key workers and schools. In the future, we will need to adapt to growing leisure demand and what is likely to be reduced commuting. It’s for this reason that a larger service will operate on Saturdays than on weekdays – a change from the past, but one that will support leisure demand.”
Critics said the plans would result in more crowded carriages, according to reports.
City A.M. understands that the planned changes are long term ones in relation to 2022 services and beyond. They relate to services which have already stopped running and may not be reintroduced depending on how many people return to their commute.
A person familiar with the matter said there are some trains which have not run since March 2020 and “may not return if it is the right thing to do for customers”.
GTR said, in timetable changes released this week, that it plans to introduce more trains from September. The new timetable, GTR said, uses drivers more efficiently and will allow the operator to run almost 200 more trains each weekday.
Chief operating officer at GTR, Steve White, in a statement said: “Passengers will actually have more weekday trains from next month – 1,000 extra each week.”
“Passenger levels are currently around 50 per cent of their pre-pandemic level and we will have plenty of capacity for our customers.”
“Planning is now under way for a further change in December which will add still more services, resources permitting, as customers return and the pandemic recedes. We will continue to review our services based on passenger demand and our ambition is to support the recovery of the railway whilst considering the needs of the taxpayers,” White added.