The recent performance cannot all be blamed on Southern Railway. There are numerous reasons why trains are late.
Clearly train breakdown, staff shortage, and poor information are their responsibility. However, some of the carriages are nearly life expired, but the good news is the old British Rail stock, used by Thames-Link, is to be replaced by a modern fleet over the next two years. Southern also are operating old stock rejected from London.
Far too many delays are caused by signalling failures, which are the responsibility of Network Rail. Cracked and slippery rails appear to have reduced. Civil engineering and power supply failures are also Network Rail’s responsibility.
The nub of the problem is that the system is overloaded. One small disruption can quickly generate into a major disruption. The work on Thames Link and London Bridge should have been completed years ago. About 15 years ago Lord Prescott, as the Secretary of State for Transport, failed to get important upgrade work done for environmental reasons. Therefore politicians and London planners must all share in the blame game.
I am encouraged by the reaction of Southern Rail as the new operator of the Thames Link service, but we shall see if they follow it through.
Lastly, many complaining passengers may well cause a morale problem with the front-line staff. I hope passengers will hold back their complaints for a few months to permit the new operator, Southern Rail, to carry out the promised reforms.