Villiers hits out at GTR for backtracking on their promise on bringing back missing rail services

Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers has heavily criticised Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) for backtracking on a promise that rush hour Great Northern services removed from Oakleigh Park and New Southgate would be back in the timetable by December.

The rail operator told Theresa in April the two services removed from the morning peak at these stations would be reinstated at the next timetable change in early December, after new Class 717 trains are introduced.

However, at a recent meeting with Theresa in her Westminster office, Patrick Verwer, the new GTR chief executive, admitted that the restoration of these services has been postponed and he could not give a clear indication when this would happen, other than a promise it would at some point.

He said the operator had to take a cautious approach to the December timetable change following the disruption which occurred in May that led to commuter misery across the capital and beyond.

“This is bad news for commuters already suffering on overcrowded trains and with a reduced service that remains below standard,” said Theresa.

“I told Mr Verwer that my constituents would be very angry about having to wait even longer for the return of these vital trains. I also urged him to sort out the reliability issues on the Great Northern Line and to get the full May timetable implemented as soon as possible.

“It is deeply unfair that commuters are suffering this further delay before the return of the missing Oakleigh Park and New Southgate services because of the big mistakes made by the rail industry in May.

“The good news is that I received an undertaking from Mr Verwer that GTR is definitely going to restore the two trains, even though he could not give me a firm date for when this will happen.

“Worryingly, it could be as late as next May, but the chief executive promised the company would consider starting these services at an earlier point between December and May 2019 if this was possible.

“I will continue to press GTR for a firm date to return these trains to Oakleigh Park and New Southgate. It is hugely frustrating that GTR is reneging on a promise to get the trains back by December. This further undermines confidence in GTR and its ability to run a decent service.”

The lengthy consultation which preceded the introduction of the May timetable on the Great Northern line indicated that New Barnet, Oakleigh Park and New Southgate would all have more frequent services. At the last minute, GTR suddenly revealed that in fact two trains during the morning peak at Oakleigh Park and New Southgate were to be removed to enable more stops at stations further along the line towards central London.

Taking up the concerns of constituents, Theresa immediately contacted GTR to demand the retention of these services. They promised their return in the timetable change planned for early December, following introduction of new rolling stock.