An update on the Southern Rail services along the Tattenham Corner line
Commuting residents will have noticed the recent suspension of direct London services to/from Chipstead. Since 26th July it has been necessary to change at Purley in order to get to London Bridge and/or Victoria. Whilst a major inconvenience for residents, we are pleased to learn that this change is only temporary and that this 'emergency' timetable will revert to the timetable in place previously from September.
Full statement from Southern Rail / Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) below.
GTR -Why is coronavirus affecting train services?
We have seen an increase in short notice cancellations, which are very frustrating for customers and make it increasingly difficult to plan journeys. This has been driven by the impact of COVID on our people, disruption to our business since the start of the pandemic and a significant recent rise in isolations.
We know that a reduced timetable will make some journeys more difficult, but by reducing services on a planned basis, we expect to be able to strengthen services across the network, creating greater certainty for our customers.
There are a couple of factors why fewer critical staff, such as platform dispatchers, drivers and signallers are available this summer. The first is the direct effect of coronavirus, in terms of infections and the need to self-isolate through test and trace.
While absence in other parts of the railway can sometimes be covered by redeploying staff from other roles, it is not something we can do with certain roles because of the specialised training required.
The second factor is how coronavirus has disrupted the railway over the past eighteen months. In particular, this has had a knock-on impact on training, which now means fewer staff are available.
For example, the pandemic has had a major impact on our ability to deliver driver training over the last year both for new drivers and for drivers needing refresher training. This is because of the challenges of absence from the workplace given coronavirus and the difficulties of social distancing and “bubbles” in terms of practicalities around the number of drivers that can work in a bubble group with an instructor and in the cramped confines of a driver cab.
While we have done everything we can to keep training crew during the pandemic, it has been less efficient, and as a result over 150 qualified drivers have been unable to complete all refresher training, needed by some as they return to the workplace after shielding. At the same time, 28 of our new trainees have been unable to progress through our training academy as planned. The training of 50 more has been delayed while we developed and agreed training “bubbles” with our instructors.
We have seen a similar impact on other critical roles such as our engineering teams, on board train crew, platform dispatchers and our colleagues at Network Rail.
This does mean that while our depots are fully staffed, the number of qualified crew that are available on a day-by-day basis is fewer than before coronavirus.
Third, critical staff availability can vary generally with training, sickness, holiday demand, home emergencies and anything else that could cause someone to temporarily be away from the workplace. While in normal circumstances we would cover small gaps through overtime, the number of people that are both available and have the right training is far smaller due to the disruption of coronavirus.
We know that reducing the timetable on a planned basis will affect your journey and we are very sorry.