New Govia train timetable met with mixed response

PUBLISHED: 16:00 22 December 2018

Extra services have been added, but the majority are off peak. Picture: Govia Thameslink

Extra services have been added, but the majority are off peak. Picture: Govia Thameslink

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Some commuters in North Herts have given a "hesitant thumbs up", while others remain disappointed in further rail timetable changes which were implemented last Monday.

There have been mixed reactions to the latest changes, with more set to come on January 7 – following a summer of chaos.

In a joint statement, members of the Letchworth Rail User and the Royston & Villages Rail Users groups said that, to the relief of passengers, the implementation of the winter timetable has been relatively smooth, but improvements still need to be made.

“The first week of the weekday winter timetable appears to be, on the whole, running well and a huge relief for passengers,” a spokeswoman said.

“The restoration of the late evening stops from London King’s Cross on the Cambridge flyers is a huge relief for passengers and particularly for the shift workers at Letchworth and Royston.

“We have had these particular stops for two decades and many struggled without them during the interim timetable.

“The weekends do sadly remain a huge disappointment – the interim timetable which remains in place does not meet passengers’ needs.

“The chaos experienced Saturday night after a tree strike blocked the lines illustrates there is still much work to be done on contingency planning for such incidents.”

On the other hand, a Hitchin commuter has reported that last Monday was “one of the better days”, however described last Tuesday morning’s services as “abysmal”.

Rosalind Southward, who set up the Hitchin Rail Commuters Facebook group, said: “On Tuesday, 80 per cent of our trains were either cancelled or delayed.

“Four services were cancelled before 8am.

“We also had the 06.43 service to London, which has been replaced with a 06.41 service to St Pancras. That train has been late every single day.

“The May timetable wasn’t sufficient for Hitchin’s needs anyway and we need a service comparable to the service we had prior to May 2018.

“It’s getting very tedious now, especially with the price increase in January.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place because we don’t have a choice.”

Another commuter from the town took to the Facebook group on Thursday, posting: “And now the 7.26am is cancelled.

“Seriously, the timetable didn’t meet our needs before December 10, but it was generally functioning as planned – assuming you left a few minutes delays on almost every service through the core.

“So they introduce ‘200 extra services’ – mainly off-peak – and the already brittle peak timetable breaks and falls. Why is there no resilience?”

Similar problems have been reported on Facebook through the Stevenage Rail Users Group, too.

A Govia Thameslink Railway spokesman said: “The new timetable has been working well, with 400 more Thameslink and Great Northern services every weekday, thanks to the efforts of our staff and Network Rail.

“Eight out of 10 services arrived on time on the first Monday, 10 December, despite disruptive signal faults at Welwyn Garden City and East Croydon. “Punctuality on Monday this week was better still, with almost nine out of 10 trains on time.

“So far we have focussed on bringing in the new expanded weekday timetable as smoothly as possible. The weekends will see improvements next May.

“We are very sorry for the disruption in the early morning last Tuesday, which was not related to the new timetable. We encourage passengers whose journeys were delayed by 15 minutes or more to claim Delay Repay compensation from the Great Northern web site.”

In a report by the goverment’s Transport Select Commitee published earlier this month it was recommended that the Department for Transport and Network Rail “should work with the operators and engage with passengers to design mitigations that better meet the needs of people travelling to and from the worst-affected stations”.

Hitchin was named as one of the worst-affected stations, along with Harpenden, Leagrave and Flitwick.

The timetable changes brought four additional services – two in the morning and two in the evening – to Biggleswade.

Samantha Boyd, who commutes from the town, told this newspaper: “My train home has actually been fine.
“I am now able to get the 4.11pm train from Farringdon, bridging the gap which had left us without any way of getting homke for up to an hour.

“However, we have been left for seven months up to this point and the price of tickets is going up by 3.1 per cent in January, despite us suffering for so long.

“So, it’s a hesitant thumbs up from me.”

However, others expressed disappointment on the Biggleswade Rail Users Group page throughout the course of the week.

Following delays, one commented: “This reminds me of when the new May timetable went live, those crazy months.

“Oh wait, the real May timetable finally went live this week again, that explains why it has been chaotic.”

Twelve additional night services will be introduced across the network from January 7.

For more information about the timetable and how to claim compensation, go to greatnorthernrail.com.

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