Hundreds of angry train passengers faced a nightmare three-hour bus journey from London to Bedford on Sunday after Thameslink announced all trains between 11.30pm and 5am on Monday were cancelled.
Harassed officials at St Pancras first claimed the drivers had “gone on strike” before later admitting none had turned up for work because “they are not obligated to work on Sundays”.
Passengers were left waiting more than 30 minutes for a 33-seater replacement bus to arrive, sparking a struggle to get on board among around 100 passengers.
An official Thameslink spokesman said: “The cancellations were not because of any strike but because we had a temporary shortage of available train crew.
“We are at the moment more reliant on drivers working rest days and overtime which occasionally causes problems.
“The cancellations were anticipated earlier in the day and advertised on National Rail Enquiries and our website. We also ordered replacement buses, but the number that actually turned up was clearly not enough.”
An angry passenger from Flitwick, who was dressed as a US Air Force colonel after spending the evening at a Secret Cinema event in London, said tempers rose as the temperature plummeted below zero.
He said: “There must have been more than 100 people trying to get home in the freezing cold but Thameslink just left us stranded.
“Every survey on passenger satisfaction puts Thameslink right at the bottom, yet they never seem to get any better.”
He added after two packed “slow, all-stations” buses left St Pancras at 12.40am a “fast bus” arrived only called at St Albans, Luton and Bedford stations.
People trying to get to Leagrave, Harlington and Flitwick who had been advised to wait for the “fast bus”, were told to wait for another bus.
In the meantime, a train arrived at 1.20am to take passengers back to Bedford some two hours late.