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‘Shambles’ rail service slammed in report

Launch of new trains at King's Lynn Railway Station
Launch of new trains at King's Lynn Railway Station

The operation of West Norfolk’s main rail franchise has been condemned as a “shambles” by a committee of MPs.

A Parliamentary report has accused the government of not doing enough to ensure that services run by Govia Thameslink (GTR), including Great Northern trains between Lynn and London, deliver for passengers.

But the operator claims its new timetables, due to come into force later this month, will deliver long-term benefits, despite the prospect of longer journeys to and from our area.

The report by the Public Accounts Committee said disruption on the GTR network had been the worst on the entire rail network in the first three years of the current franchise.

Although much of that is related to the long-running dispute on the Southern network, a report last summer suggested that as many as 15 per cent of trains coming into Lynn were late.

But the committee said the Department for Transport had to do more to ensure that the operator’s priorities were to serve the travelling public first.

Committee chairman Meg Hillier said: “The operation of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise has been a multi-faceted shambles causing untold misery for passengers.

“The government appears to have seen its task as simply to contract out the service, with wholly inadequate consideration given to passengers’ best interests and behaviour.

“This imbalance cannot continue. The franchising model is broken and passengers are paying the price.”

The Department for Transport has yet to respond to the report’s findings.

However, a GTR spokesman said: “We have faced a wide range of difficulties since being formed in 2014. Not least among these was the industrial action which has been the primary cause of service disruption. We regret the impact this has had on passengers.

“We have been making good progress to improve reliability.

“Later this month we will transform services with a new timetable creating space for 40,000 more passengers at peak times along with new routes across a wide region.

“We are more confident than ever that these benefits will be felt by rail travellers for generations to come.”

But the company is facing renewed criticism in West Norfolk after its confirmed schedules, which were published last week, featured many longer journeys from West Norfolk to the capital.

Although services will stop at the new Cambridge North station, which they don’t at the moment, from May 20, many journeys will take around 10 minutes longer than they do at the moment.

Industry bosses are set to be questioned on the issue at a rail summit to be held in Ely on Friday, following similar meetings in Downham in each of the past two years.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss took to Twitter to say the county deserved better services, adding: “We need to see shorter journey times and longer trains as soon as possible.”


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