Victory for Save Baldock Trains campaign as Govia drops plan to cut off-peak rail services
PUBLISHED: 12:28 28 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:37 28 June 2017
A campaign to save off-peak rail services into London from Baldock has achieved “a great victory” after bosses changed their mind in light of the massive housing growth earmarked for the town.
Great Northern operator Govia Thameslink confirmed the decision yesterday, following phase one of its consultation into a new 2018 timetable.
Baldock was cited as the top response station – with 649 representations against the proposals.
Those welcoming the news included Councillor Jim McNally, who represents Baldock Town ward on North Herts District Council – and roundly congratulated the Save Baldock Trains campaign on what he described as a triumph for the community.
He told this paper: “Well done to Save Baldock Trains for really doing a great job putting some pressure on, along with us councillors – I think the combination works really well.
“When we spoke to Govia, they weren’t even aware of the proposed developments in Baldock, or anywhere in this area – so it made them think again.
“We got back the semi-fast trains at off-peak times, but we’re still waiting for a decision about the weekend services.
“This is a great victory for local people, getting Govia to change their mind.”
The decision means there will be four off-peak trains per hour to and from Baldock on weekdays. In peak periods four trains per hour will go into the Thameslink line in London – going on to Brighton and Maidstone East – with another two into King’s Cross, running fast from Welwyn North.
However, also confirmed following the consultation is the replacement of trains with buses between Stevenage, Watton-at-Stone and Hertford North from May 2018 until Network Rail completes the delayed fifth bay platform at Stevenage.
Reorganisation of services from Hitchin and Stevenage means there will be 50 per cent more fast trains into King’s Cross by the end of 2018, with central services across central London to Farringdon and London Bridge.
There will no longer be non-stop services into London from either Hitchin or Letchworth, though Govia has stressed that the garden city will now get six trains per hour at peak times.
Ashwell & Morden station will now benefit from five non-stop trains to London King’s Cross between 6.29am and 8.29am.
Govia head of strategic planning Phil Hutchinson said: “During phase one of this consultation, people really welcomed the increased number of trains we’re planning to bring commuters and off-peak travellers from Hitchin, Stevenage and Hertford North, and we hope passengers in Baldock are pleased we have been able to accommodate their calls to keep an all-day semi-fast service.
“But, sadly, we can’t do any of this without putting in a temporary bus service until Network Rail builds the new platform at Stevenage. Three independent studies have shown this to be true and everyone is doing their best to get the platform built as soon as possible.”
Network Rail, the Department for Transport and Govia are working together on plans for the new Stevenage platform.
Hitchin South county councillor Derrick Ashley – who is responsible for transport at Herts County Council – said they were disappointed by the situation on the Hertford North link, but pleased by the change of tune regarding Baldock.
He said: “We’re very pleased that Govia responded positively to our concerns – we were particularly worried that with the impending development of Baldock in the Local Plan, there might not be sufficient fast services. We see the change of plan there as a big bonus.”
Comments on Govia’s revised plans are invited by July 27. Weekend timetables are expected later this year.
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