Gatwick Express: Passengers in danger of missing flights as airport train service is halved

Gatwick is keen on saying how it would be “road & rail ready” for a 2nd runway by 2021, and that everyone will have easier and faster journeys, with no more congestion – even with more than twice as many passengers as today. And that sort of thing. However, its train links are a very real problem. Now Simon Calder says there will be cuts to trains between London and Gatwick in the off-peak period, at first for a trial period. There are 13,000 fewer seats per day, as 38 Gatwick Express services per day are being cancelled, meaning passengers will have to wait up to 30 minutes, rather than 15 minutes. “The latest cunning plan for dealing with rising passenger numbers on the London-Brighton line: halve the number of Gatwick Express trains, and delay some other services.” Some of the surviving trains will make additional stops, adding to journey times.  Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is telling passengers: “The aim of the changes is to help reduce congestion on the network, so that a more reliable service can be provided.” But the lower number of trains will lead to more over-crowding. With the fast trains from London to Brighton having to have an extended stop at Gatwick, they will be delayed by 5 minutes. Passengers prefer the direct London-Gatwick line, the Gatwick Express, rather than trains going to or from Brighton.
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Here’s the statement on the Gatwick Express Service Web site:-

“Changes to off peak service from 23 November

Due to poor punctuality during autumn, and the very busy nature of our service, we have worked with Network Rail to temporarily remove a number of Gatwick Express services from the timetable to help reduce congestion on the network, so that a more reliable service can be provided overall. This will start on Monday 23 November, for a week’s trial. Gatwick Express services will therefore run half hourly during the off peak. 14 and 44 minutes past the hour services from Victoria to Gatwick will not run and 05 and 35 minutes past the hour services from Gatwick to Victoria will not run. To check detailed journeys please go to www.nationalrail.co.uk

“We have considered these temporary changes carefully to minimise the impact on passengers. We will review the effect they have on overall punctuality during this week, and assess if they should continue up until the timetable change on 13 December when a new off peak timetable pattern is due to be introduced.” 

Gatwick Express: Passengers in danger of missing flights as airport train service is halved

Exclusive: The cuts mean there are 13,000 fewer seats a day between central London and Britain’s second-busiest airport

By Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent (Independent)

26.11.2015

Thirty-eight Gatwick Express services a day are being cancelled, meaning passengers will have to wait up to 30 minutes.

The latest cunning plan for dealing with rising passenger numbers on the London-Brighton line: halve the number of Gatwick Express trains, and delay some other services.

The train operator that brought commuters Britain’s most chronically delayed train believes the route to a better service is running fewer trains. Passengers in a hurry to travel from central London to Gatwick airport on Friday, and over the next two weeks, are likely to find that half the daytime and evening express trains have been cancelled.

Thirty-eight Gatwick Express services a day are being cancelled, leaving passengers – who pay £19.90 one-way for the 28-mile journey – potentially waiting for 30 minutes, rather than the previous quarter-hour. The cuts mean there are 13,000 fewer seats a day between central London and Britain’s second-busiest airport.

Stefan Rousseau, a Press Association photographer, blamed the cuts for missing his flight from Gatwick to Malta where he was due to be working at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. He tweeted: “Missed flight to @chogm2015mt this morning after @GatwickExpress cancelled two trains without warning or explanation. Thanks chaps.”

In addition, 20 Thameslink services a day between London and Brighton have been cancelled or are terminating at Gatwick. Some of the surviving trains will make additional stops, adding to journey times.

A parody Twitter account, BadSouthernRail, tweeted: “Just so you know, Thameslink are rubbish at trains in the day. So they’ve given up.”

Southern Railway faced criticism earlier this year when it was revealed that the 7.29am from Brighton to London Victoria ran late every day in 2014. It is now part of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which also runs Gatwick Express and Thameslink services on the line.

The train operator denied that the aim of the cuts is to massage punctuality statistics or to save money. It insisted the decision was taken in response to “poor punctuality during autumn and the very busy nature of our service”.

GTR is telling passengers: “The aim of the changes is to help reduce congestion on the network, so that a more reliable service can be provided.”

A railway insider told The Independent: “This is basically a flawed timetable with not enough resilience built in. The main question is: why change it now? It may be that they’re trying to blame the leaf-fall season.”

Martin Abrams, public transport campaigner for the Campaign for Better Transport, told The Independent: “Cancelling and running fewer train services is not the answer to sorting out the problem of poor performance and punctuality.

“Running fewer trains will lead to more overcrowding with passengers forced to stand in cramped conditions. Having paid a lot of money for their ticket, they should get the service they deserve: an affordable and reliable rail service.”

A new timetable is due to be introduced next month, which will turn the clock back 31 years. Before 1984, when the Gatwick Express was launched as Britain’s first dedicated airport train, the Sussex airport was served by normal trains to and from the coast. That pattern will return, with fast trains from Brighton stopping at Gatwick.

The arrangement will slow down the Brighton-London journey by around five minutes, because of a prolonged stop at the airport, and inconvenience airline passengers. The principle of the dedicated Gatwick Express service was that there would always be one waiting on the platform, reducing stress for those with lots of luggage.

Between Christmas Eve and 4 January next year, the main line from London to Gatwick and Brighton will be severed, with passengers facing a tripling of journey times from half an hour to 90 minutes.

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/gatwick-express-passengers-in-danger-of-missing-flights-as-airport-train-service-is-halved-a6750456.html

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An  AirportWatch member from GACC commented: 

I”t is off peak services that are affected. Air passenger levels will be down for the winter period, so that will produce less impact on the trains. That said GAL will probably moan!
There are alternative rail services to London. Any passenger who has missed a flight has obviously cut it too fine. Gatwick Express is anyway a privileged service operated at the expense of a decent service for commuters – it has long been a bone of contention !”

See also

Road and rail chaos, with congestion and over-crowding, predicted if new Gatwick runway built

A new research paper prepared by author and environmental expert Jeremy Early, on Surface access to Gatwick Airport predicts that a new runway at Gatwick would bring road and rail chaos. He points out that the existing road structure is nearly full, with serious delays occurring on many routes, especially on the M23 and A23 into London. Planned improvements will only be sufficient to deal with the forecast growth in traffic  – without a new runway. A new runway, operating at full capacity of 95 million passengers a year, would mean an a massive increase in road traffic movements each day.  It would probably reduce the M25 and M23 to a standstill – all day not just occasionally. On rail,  the report shows that  already between 2010 and 2014 rail journeys in the South-East increased more than 20%. The extra trains that Gatwick airport boasts of are in reality already just to cope with the expected increase in demand – with no new runway. With a new runway Gatwick predict a three-fold increase in the number of air passengers using Gatwick station. It could be standing room only, with no spare capacity on parts of the network. 

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2014/10/road-and-rail-chaos-with-congestion-and-over-crowding-predicted-if-new-gatwick-runway-built/

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and

Gatwick claims that with better public transport it will be “road & rail ready” for 2nd runway by 2021

Gatwick has produced a glossy document setting out how it will have fantastic road and rail links in place by 2021, that there will be no road or rail congestion, and everyone will have smoother and easier journeys. And at no cost to anyone. There are some stunning omissions.  Most things that are inconvenient are just left out. They say “Gatwick will increase the cost efficiency in the rail industry by filling off-peak trains as well as providing passengers for trains operating in the opposite direction to peak commuter services. While it is estimated that, on the busiest trains, only 5% of travellers will be air passengers, the overall benefit they will bring will be around £3 billion in additional fare income.”  Gatwick says: “Junction 9 of the M23 … will need to be upgraded to cater for expansion. Gatwick has committed to funding a doubling of this motorway junction capacity.” The only thing Gatwick has said it will pay for.  Also: “we have re-designed the local road network to be no busier than it is today, even after a general increase in demand, which will lessen local noise and air quality effects of background traffic, benefit economic activity and the quality of life of those using and living along the affected roads.”  Really?  Who writes this stuff?

http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/2014/06/gatwick-claims-that-with-better-public-transport-it-will-be-road-rail-ready-for-2nd-runway-by-2021/

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