Rail user groups on ‘massive improvements’, but work with Govia still to be done

The meeting was held at the Spirella Building in Letchworth

The meeting was held at the Spirella Building in Letchworth - Credit: Archant

Rail user groups from Royston, Letchworth and surrounding villages in North Herts and South Cambs have gathered for a meeting with Govia represetatives to discuss progress made to the train timetables, following months of unreliable services last year.

Members attended the meeting at the Spirella Building in Letchworth on Friday, where significant improvements alongside future challenges were discussed.

Group chairs for the Royston and Villages and Letchworth RUGs said in a joint statement: “The local Rail User Groups organised the second public meeting so passengers could have another opportunity to directly ask questions of our rail service provider and, where there are issues with Railplan2020 and beyond, to seek solutions together.

“It is fair to say there have been massive improvements since our last public meeting for our section of the line and that many of the specific issues raised had been looked at.

“In particular, we have been able to address the majority of issues with the weekday timetable, restoring the fast service to Letchworth and Royston in its old pattern amongst many other things. We are pleased that GTR have committed to once again look closely at the feedback received and where possible act upon it.

“Our approach throughout the last 18 months has been about connecting local knowledge with industry expertise, and the belief that by working together collaboratively with our service provider and other groups everyone’s best interests can be served.

“It is so important for a dialogue to exist between our local users and the train company – we’re delighted to provide and maintain that strong relationship.

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“The Rail User Groups look forward to taking GTR up on their offer to return and speak to us at a future date.”

Improvements secured with the “strong relationship” included helping working parents with late morning and early evening services from all stations, an improved semi-fast 47-minute service to and from London St Pancras throughout the day for Ashwell, and additional stop on fast services to and from Cambridge in the mornings.

Chair of Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group Susan van de Ven said: “We had an opportunity to amplify our villages’ mixed fortunes: the new half-hourly off-peak service is a positive campaign result – GTR was not obliged by the Department for Transport to introduce this expansion of services.

“At the same time, we’ve lost our semi-fast London commuter links, for reasons bound up with the introduction of new 8 and 12 carriage trains that can’t be split at Royston, and an increasingly complex timetable.

“But the reinstatement of a semi-fast service should still be possible and is the focal point of our campaigning efforts.

“Concerns were also raised about Shepreth level crossing dysfunction, profound inaccessibility at Meldreth, and safety questions on the short platform at Meldreth, which is overcrowded at morning peak.”

A recent survey by the Office of Rail and Road revealed that 23,000 Govia trains were cancelled in the first quarter of 2018/2019, out of nearly 299,000 planned services.