Herts County Council leader writes to Govia Thameslink and Department for Transport about delays
PUBLISHED: 15:53 30 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:00 30 May 2018
2017 Pete Stevens
The leader of Herts County Council has demanded answers from the Department for Transport, Network Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway about the rail chaos which has followed the recent timetable change.
Cllr David Williams contacted the two government bodies and the rail operator after County Hall’s censuring motion.
The motion reads: “The county council is deeply concerned the rail industry is failing to look after the interests of Hertfordshire residents and businesses in the implementation of the Thameslink programme and the Rail Plan 20/20 timetable changes.”
It listed several problem areas, including:
• postponement of the fifth platform at Stevenage leading to a bus replacement between Hertford and Stevenage for a period of possibly several years. This completely undermines the County’s emerging Local Transport Plan;
• loss of direct connections from mid-Herts to Peterborough resulting in reduced connectivity to services to the north;
• reduction in fast peak hour trains to and from north Herts to London;
• reduction in service to Brookmans Park and Welham Green;
• late changes and lack of consultation on peak services from Harpenden and St Albans as a result of timetable changes by East Midland Trains to London caused by Network Rail’s budget overruns;
• delay to introducing some of the new service improvements due to the late decision to phase the introduction of the 2018 timetable;
• failure of the specification of the new trains to incorporate Wi-Fi, plug sockets and seat back tables;
• reduced seating capacity in peak periods when new trains are introduced on the Moorgate services to Hertford and Welwyn Garden City; and
• the failure to properly plan the introduction of the May 2018 timetable changes which has resulted in disruption to services forecast to last until 8th June.
The motion continued: “The county council supports continuing engagement with the rail industry, Department for Transport and local MPs to ensure the interests of Hertfordshire residents remain paramount.”
Since a new timetable came into effect on the GTR network on Sunday, May 20, passengers have complained of cancellations, delays and overcrowded trains.
Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps, St Albans MP Anne Main and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami have all criticised Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) for the disruption.
Cllr Williams said: “I would like to reassure residents I have written to Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway and the minister for the Department of Transport to explain that we do not believe the introduction of this programme has been to the benefit of Hertfordshire rail travellers and the disruption this week on what was supposed to be a ‘soft’ introduction (and mindful we have had ad hoc cancellations going back years) is yet more frustration for regular travellers.
“I am particularly concerned there may be further delays to the essential remedial measures, such as the Stevenage fifth platform, and have been seeking reassurances that all the necessary works will be introduced as soon as reasonably possible.
“An effective transport network is key to the challenges our growing county faces and I look forward to hearing from back from the train companies and the DfT with information on how they intend to address these issues. We will continue to monitor the situation.”
A spokesperson for GTR said: “We apologise to passengers for the continued disruption linked to the introduction of the new timetable. We are working on a recovery plan with rail industry partners.
“Meanwhile, as late notice changes continue to be made, we ask passengers to check train times on the day of travel. We expect disruption to ease over the coming month.”
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The rail industry is working together to finalise the plan for reinstating a full train service between Stevenage and Hertford North, via Watton-at-Stone. Network Rail is aiming to complete a fifth platform and 1.5 miles of a new electrified line at Stevenage to enable train services to be resumed and is looking to accelerate the programme as far as possible.
“Late timetables have certainly not helped the recent events but there are many other factors across the industry involved and we are looking at understanding the root cause so that future changes can be implemented more smoothly.”
The DfT was contacted for comment but did not respond before the Herts Advertiser went to press.