Govia says ‘everything should run to schedule’ as South Cambs villages prepare for new timetable

Shepreth railway station. Picture: Archant

Shepreth railway station. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Govia Thameslink staff have told South Cambs villagers that problems of the May 2018 timetable – like controllers not knowing where stations were, and people on Twitter knowing more about train cancellations than staff – have been addressed ahead of next week’s new timetable.

Villagers met with Govia Thameslink Railway and Network Rail representatives yesterday evening at a meeting of the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group.

The meeting at Elin Way Sheltered Housing Community Room was chaired by RUG chair Susan van de Ven and attended by GTR station manager Mark Edwards, and GTR’s Karen Gregson among others.

On the agenda was the implementation of the December timetable changes to weekday services. The timetable officially starts on Sunday, but will affect trains from the Monday.

Mr Edwards told the meeting: “Everything is to go full steam ahead on December 9/10. Everything should run as it says it should – we’ve been given lots and lots of confidence [that will happen].

“We don’t have the intention of cancelling anything, that’s not what we want. It causes us problems and it causes you guys problems as well.”

Ms Gregson said: “All the rosters and all the diagrams have been done with those services back in, so we shouldn’t see any major problems as long as the rosters and the drivers diagrams are correct.”

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The GTR representatives said a significant change coming in was a ‘specialist stop order’ which would remedy the villages being missed when there is disruption.

Mr Edwards said: “When we do have disruption, the villages get hit quite hard.

“They have now signed off an agreement that our 12-car trains will be able to stop at the villages,It’s a small win, but quite a big deal. “What they’ll do is put an additional stop on the King’s Lynn fast route to stop at the villages – that has been signed off.”

Ms Gregson said: “In the disruption, say we’ve got problems with the 0657 as we’ve had previously, the call centre can now put a specialist stop order on that to actually stop it at the villages, and Cambridge and Royston have been informed.

“The stops are only when in disruption mode, but we have that scope now to be able to do that – which will help ease the pressure these stations.”

This was met with praise among the RUG.

There was also some praise for the new services, most notably “how fantastic it was to get on the train at Royston and get off at Blackfriars”, something described as “just amazing”.

There was, however, some cricitism from attendees that weekend services weren’t being changed, with one RUG member saying it was as if “weekends don’t exist” to GTR.

Ms Gregson said: “The weekend will be looked at by May.

“Literally this [weekday] part of the timetable is what we’ve got to put back in by Monday. The train planners will then work on the weekend services.”

Chair Mrs van de Ven asked if the weekend timetable was likely to be the pre-May 2018 one.

To which the meeting was told they haven’t had detail on the weekend service, but Mr Edwards said: “What they tried to achieve with the May timetable was to rewrite the rule book as we know it with the way we travel on trains.

“You won’t see our old timetable being planned the way it was this time last year. We’ll never go back to how it used to be as there’s so many other services to take into account.”

Another group member said: “In the summer, there was a double whammy going on when trains weren’t arriving and there was no notification to say as much – have we made progress on that?”

Mr Edwards said: “Lessons learned from May were huge – there was lots of problems in the background.

“We’re now aware of the problems and have put an awful lot of work to sort these out, even sending control down on stations to understand the location of where stations were.

“Sitting in Three Bridges there were Thameslink controllers who didn’t know where Arlesey or Huntington were – they didn’t understand why you couldn’t walk from Royston to Huntingdon, based on their map.

“But time has been spent learning lessons to make sure we don’t have the same problems before, and it won’t be the same problems called something else because they won’t be there this time.

“I can’t defend what happened in May – we were out on stations literally every hour of the day and we didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was.

“Information-wise, yes it was frustrating for you but actually working on the ground trying to get people where they were going was frustrating for us as well.”

The meeting also heard that GTR had issued out 2,500 phones to frontline staff to help keep them better informed as, in come cases, people looking on Twitter were more informed of cancellations than staff were.