Royston and South Cambs stations each to get £80,000 in compensation funds
- Credit: Archant
Railway stations in Royston and South Cambs will each receive £80,000 in compensation after being deemed some of the “worst-affected” by last May’s timetable debacle.
Govia Thameslink Railway is asking passengers and stakeholders to suggest how a £15 million pot of money should be invested to help compensate people using the stations, which include Ashwell & Morden, Baldock, Brookman's Park, Cuffley, Foxton, Harpenden, Hatfield, Hitchin, Knebworth, Letchworth, Meldreth, Potters Bar, Radlett, Royston, Shepreth, St Albans City, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City and Welwyn North.
Govia's deputy chief operating officer, Alex Foulds, said: "We have established a £15 million Passenger Benefit Fund to deliver improvements at nearly 300 stations, in recognition of the difficulties people experienced following last year's May timetable change.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work closely with our customers and make meaningful improvements that will benefit passengers across our network.
"Over the next three months we'll be asking passenger groups to tell us the improvements they think we should make through a new website and survey.
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"We are also asking passengers to join our Passenger Panel to tell us how we can invest the money."
The introduction of the new timetable last year created chaos for commuters who battled with daily cancellations, delays and overcrowding.
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Chair of the Royston and Villages Rail Users Group Edward Carder - who will be involved in the process in deciding how the money will be spent - told this newspaper: "I'm pleased that Royston and other stations on the Cambridge branch have rightly been placed in the highest tier of funding, as we were among the worst-affected stations in the whole country during May and June 2018.
"We're looking forward to working with our members and local stakeholders to get best value from the funds awarded and would encourage people to head over to our Facebook page to have their say on what we should do."
Susan van de Ven from the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group said: "We are canvassing our members at the moment and will be forming a formal response to Govia at our Rail User Group meeting next month, so I don't wish to preempt that consensus.
"However, I can report that there appears to be widespread view favouring the installation of ticket machines on both platforms at all three stations.
"At present, each station has only one ticket machine, which is highly problematic due to obstacles to accessibility from one platform to the other.
"At Foxton and Shepreth level crossing, barriers are often down and time lost buying a ticket on the opposite side of the tracks causes passengers to miss their trains.
"At Meldreth the difficulty is around the lack of step free access acros the tracks."
A member of the Hitchin Rail Commuters Group Jon Cooke created a poll for rail users to vote on how they think the town's compensation should be spent.
Options included additional waiting shelters, improvements to toilets and increasing cycle security measures at the station.
Most voters decided they would like to see the money spent on additional ticket vending machines.
Jon told this newspaper: "We have no idea the cost of any of these to implement - I have emailed Govia to ask about this.
"It could be that a new tickets machine costs more than £80,000 to supply and install.
"Govia and the government took a very simplistic approach to allocating funds, completely unrelated to the number of passengers impacted at each station.
"Based on this, Hitchin should have received significantly more funding - double what Letchworth has had funding for."
Fellow Hitchin commuter campaigner Rosalind Southward added: "This money does not compensate for the fact that Hitchin still has an inadequate timetable for its passenger numbers, despite the fact that we were one of the stations flagged up in the transport up in the transport select committee report on exactly this.
"It is very disappointing to see other, smaller stations being given preferential treatment in terms of services despite having substantially less passenger demand than Hitchin."
To find out more about the fund or how to have your say, go to www.passengerbenefitfund.co.uk.