LETTER: We are sorry for rail issues

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Your letters

I write to apologise to your readers for the delays and exceptionally crowded trains that Thameslink passengers recently experienced as a result of cancellations and delays triggered by a shortage of drivers.

Anyone who experienced a delay of 30 minutes or longer for any journey is encouraged to claim compensation through Delay Repay. Full details of how to claim are shown on the Thameslink website at http://www.thameslinkrailway.com/contact-us/delay-repay/

The reason for the driver shortage was the exceptionally high level of training required ahead of the three year closure of our cross-London route through London Bridge. This was not ‘basic’ training but training associated with changes to how we need to operate between now and 2018, when new dedicated Thameslink platforms at the rebuilt London Bridge station will come into use. The additional training covered the following:  As all cross-London services are now diverted from London Bridge until 2018, drivers have had to learn a new route, including a number of diversions should any part of that route be

unavailable due to infrastructure problems or a train failure· If the normal cross-London route is unavailable for reasons referred to above or due to severe weather conditions, some services from south London, including from the Brighton Main Line will be diverted to Victoria station - drivers were required to learn this route.

There is a new track and signalling layout at London Bridge. Thameslink are running some trains to Brighton starting from and terminating at London Bridge and our drivers have had to be trained on that new layout. The current welcome replacement of 29 of our older Thameslink fleet (class 319s) with a brand new fleet (class 387) - drivers require training on these new trains.Cumulatively this required our driver establishment to absorb over 900 days of training since late September. There are a number of reasons why training could not have started earlier, in the main relating to the retention of knowledge. As a general rule drivers maintain what is known as ‘competence’ by  driving trains on any route at the very least once every 12 weeks.

As these new routes came into effect simultaneously and more new Class 387 trains are being delivered almost weekly, this has been a particular challenge. The majority of training has been undertaken through

overtime and rest day working and this put a lot of pressure on driver resilience.

The shortage of drivers while the above training took place was inevitable based on the number of drivers inherited from the former FCC franchise. It takes 14 months to train new drivers and more

drivers will complete their training during the course of this year. We will also be recruiting many more drivers who will complete their training in 2016. We are determined to provide a high quality service to our passengers in 2015 and will be doing everything possible to deliver it.

Larry Heyman

Integration & Partnership Manager

Thameslink