Chaos for Royston and South Cambs commuters as new timetable is rolled out
PUBLISHED: 18:33 23 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:33 23 May 2018
There has been chaos for commuters in Royston and South Cambs this week, as Govia Thameslink’s new timetable rollout has seen trains cancelled, delayed and staff shortages.
The timetable came into effect on Sunday at 2am – by Monday morning many trains on the Great Northern line had been cancelled or were delayed, causing overcrowding on some services and commuters left stranded, and problems weren’t resolved on Tuesday either.
Ruth Marshall had to drive her children and their friends in to school in Stevenage on Tuesday after finding that most of the morning services from Shepreth had been cancelled – and one of the group had a GCSE exam that morning.
“I ended up driving my kids and picking up their stranded friends from Royston to get them in on time. I quite understand them experiencing teething trouble, but to cancel so many trains is far from ideal.”
Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group has lobbied for improvements to the services in South Cambs for years.
Chair Susan van de Ven told the Crow: “We’re seeing some very welcome changes, but also the flagging up of other much-needed improvements.
“We knew there would be a period of instability to start with. The reality of cancelled and delayed trains is very stressful for people who just need to get to work or school and home again.
“I’m concerned about train drivers shortages – this takes a long time to rectify.
“For passengers travelling to Cambridge, the status quo was simply unworkable due to severe and dangerous overcrowding, especially at morning peak. So it was good to hear from passengers on Monday who for the first time in years were able to get a seat.
“For those travelling to London, timetable changes have added to what is already a long commute. Great Northern know this and say they welcome new ideas, so we’ll be working on this together with our Royston counterparts.”
Edward Carder, who started the Royston and Villages Rail Users Group, said: “The timetable team worked really hard with us to try and improve its original proposal, which was catastrophic, so we managed to save some of the fast services which were going to be changed. With the first proposal, for somebody who commutes every day, it would have meant an extra 48 hours on the train each year.
“Even with the changes we have achieved working with Govia, there is still a big loss of seating capacity for Royston and Ashwell, because the number of trains starting at Royston is down from seven to three – which would have been one without our lobbying.
“These are the future changes we will be working on with Govia’s timetable team, who have worked really hard with us.”
North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald has been working on getting answers for Royston commuters that are unhappy and called in Govia’s passenger services director Stuart Cheshire to the House of Commons on Tuesday.
At the call in, Sir Oliver read out a list of passengers’ concerns and asked for Mr Cheshire to account for Govia’s actions and failure over recent days.
Sir Oliver said: “I feel for passengers who were prepared for the new timetable and then discovered the trains were not running from Royston to St Pancras. I have immediately asked for a full explanation and to know when this is to be remedied.”
GTR said that Monday’s delays and cancellations, which occurred throughout the day, were due to an “operational incident”.
A GTR spokesman said: “Monday was a major challenge as the new timetable was tested on the first full working day. There has been some disruption in the morning peak and we apologise to passengers for any difficulties with their journey.
“We expect some ongoing issues and continue to work hard to deliver a step-change in capacity to ease congestion on the busiest part of the UK rail network as part of a £7 billion investment in infrastructure and trains.”