A train company has apologised after thousands of Bedfordshire passengers were delayed up an hour on Father’s Day due to a lack of drivers turning up for work.
Thameslink had to cancel 54 scheduled services as drivers took the day off thanks to having contracts stating they cannot be forced to work on Sundays.
Bosses of the under-fire company, voted the country’s worst rail operator for customer satisfaction, say they are trying to train up more drivers to avoid problems in the future.
But one angry commuter from Ampthill fumed: “Ever since Thameslink took over the franchise they have been promising us the service will improve. But instead, especially at weekends and at night, it seems to deteriorate even further.
“This Sunday was appalling, apparently because the weather was good and too many drivers wanted to spend Father’s Day at home with the kids.”
A deal negotiated by train drivers’ union ASLEF means drivers cannot be forced to work on Sundays and as a result, four out of five London-bound trains from Flitwick were cancelled between 10.30 and 11.30 last Sunday morning.
The Bedford-Three Bridges route was particularly badly hit meaning some evening passengers for Leagrave, Harlington and Flitwick had to wait more than an hour for a train.
One Thameslink employee, who is a member of the ASLEF union, said: “We are paid overtime to work on Sundays but it is written into our contracts that we don’t have to unless we want to.
“This week, with the weather being nice, a lot of us decided we wanted to spend Father’s Day with our kids.
“But if you think that was bad just wait until the Sunday of the Euro 16 football final. If England are playing, Thameslink will be lucky if any drivers turn up at all!”
Thameslink later issued a statement about the problems saying: “Due to a temporary shortage of available drivers, we had to remove our Bedford to Three Bridges services. This was the best way to ensure a consistent service that could be effectively communicated to passengers.
“A total of 54 trains were cancelled as a result. We are very sorry for the disruption this caused our passengers. We continue to recruit and train up drivers but it takes more than a year. Already we have brought in 51 and there are twice as many again in training.”