Great Northern timetable: We try out the new morning commute

PUBLISHED: 17:25 21 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:31 22 May 2018

Govia's new timetable has gotten off to a rocky start as many trains were cancelled or delayed this morning. Picture: Georgia Barrow

Govia's new timetable has gotten off to a rocky start as many trains were cancelled or delayed this morning. Picture: Georgia Barrow

Archant

With the “biggest timetable shake-up in history” now upon us, reporter Georgia Barrow spent the morning commuting to London on the Great Northern line to see first-hand whether passengers’ concerns about the changes held true.

After arriving at Royston railway station with 10 minutes to spare before the 7.38 semi-fast service to London King’s Cross – which happened to be delayed – I boarded the train to find a number of seats available.

But the closer we got to London, the more packed the train became – with more people squeezing into doorways and aisles as we stopped at Baldock, Letchworth, Hitchin, Knebworth and Welwyn North.

The first weekday of the new timetable did not come without its complications as cancellations and delays are expected to continue throughout the day and into the evening due to an “operational incident”.

As the train departed from Royston, an announcement was made by the driver who apologised for the four-minute delay which they said was caused by a slow-moving train.

It was a busy morning at King's Cross amid the new Govia timetable being rolled out. Picture: Georgia Barrow It was a busy morning at King's Cross amid the new Govia timetable being rolled out. Picture: Georgia Barrow

We were later delayed a further few minutes due to a red signal just outside of King’s Cross.

It only became apparent just how many people were crammed into the train when we arrived in London – with a sea of people making their way to the ticket barriers.

Commuters from Baldock and Letchworth both said that they thought the overcrowding situation on trains today was due to a lower number of fast services to King’s Cross.

Letchworth commuter Leanne Stott said: “We are seeing the loss of a lot of our non-stop direct services to London, with only three direct services in the morning and two in the evening. So, while we appreciate that Govia Thameslink did engage in a consultation, that’s a severe degradation for our station.”

Charles Marandu from Baldock said while on the train this morning: “This service is delayed and totally packed. An unsurprising consequence of collapsing three fast trains into one.

“Clearly we’re very sensitive to small variations in the timetable and obviously today has been a major change. It seems as if Great Northern were not really prepared for it.”

But the view of Edward Carder, who started the Royston & Villagers Rail Users Group, was slightly different.

He said: “The timetable team worked really hard with us to try and improve its original proposal, which was catastrophic, so we managed to save some of the fast services which were going to be changed.

“With the first proposal, for somebody who commutes everyday, it would have meant an extra 48 hours on the train each year.

“Even with the changes we have achieved working with Govia, there is still a big loss of seating capacity for Royston and Ashwell, because the number of trains starting at Royston is down from seven to three – and would have been one without our lobbying.

“These are the future changes we will be working on changing with Govia’s timetable team, who have worked really hard with us.”

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald has been receiving complaints from constituents who are unhappy with the lack of services from Royston to London St Pancras today.

“I feel for passengers who were prepared for the new timetable and then discovered the trains were not running from Royston to St Pancras,” he said.

“I have immediately asked for a full explanation and to know when this is to be remedied.”

A spokesman for Govia, which runs the Great Northern service, said: “Today was a major challenge as the new timetable was tested on the first full working day. There has been some disruption in the morning peak and we apologise to passengers for any difficulties with their journey.

“Passenger groups have acknowledged that overall the network coped well under exceptionally difficult circumstances, as we altered the departure and arrival times of thousands of services on the GTR network in the biggest change to timetables in a generation.

“Terminal stations coped well with the extra services, particularly Victoria and London Bridge.

“We expect some ongoing issues and, in the meantime, we have already introduced more than 350 extra timetabled services this week.

“We continue to work hard to deliver a step-change in capacity to ease congestion on the busiest part of the UK rail network as part of a £7 billion investment in infrastructure and trains.”

Govia will be offering passengers the opportunity to voice their opinions on Thursday for a ‘meet the manager’ session at King’s Cross from 7.30am until 9.30am.

Tickets are being accepted on CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains, Greater Anglia, London Underground, London Overground, Southern and Thameslink via any reasonable route to help passengers reach their destination.

Great Northern advises passengers who have experienced delays to keep hold of their tickets and make a note of their journeys, which will be required to support any compensation claims.

To make a claim go to greatnorthernrail.com/landing_pages/greatnorthern.html and to have a look at the new timetable go to railplan2020.com/timetables.

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