Hitchin has ‘sixth-worst rail service in UK’ – with neighbours not much better

PUBLISHED: 11:58 25 June 2018 | UPDATED: 06:55 26 June 2018

New data suggests that Hitchin has the sixth-worst rail services of any station in the UK. Picture: Great Northern

New data suggests that Hitchin has the sixth-worst rail services of any station in the UK. Picture: Great Northern

Archant

Hitchin has the sixth-worst rail service in the country – that’s according to new data ranking the performance of the UK’s stations in the past month.

Hitchin Highbury councillor Sam Collins with Hitchin Rail Commuter campaigners Beccy Forrow and Rosalind Southward. Picture: Hitchin Rail CommutersHitchin Highbury councillor Sam Collins with Hitchin Rail Commuter campaigners Beccy Forrow and Rosalind Southward. Picture: Hitchin Rail Commuters

Since the disastrous introduction of a new rail timetable on May 20, commuters have had to fight through constant cancellations, delays, overcrowding and more.

Hitchin Highbury councillor Sam Collins has crunched the numbers using stats from ontimetrains.co.uk, and found that only a handful of minor stations have had a worse time of it than Hitchin – which as of this morning is ranked 2,603rd out of 2,608 stations.

“Hitchin is the 171st busiest station in the entire country, so its poor performance is especially disruptive,” Mr Collins said, in a lengthy blog post yesterday.

The stats show that out of 5,120 services, 26 per cent were on time and 19 per cent were cancelled. Some 30 per cent were at least five minutes late.

The early-morning services used by key workers such as those in the NHS, police and transport have been particularly badly hit. The 5.07am train from Hitchin to London St Pancras has run only nine per cent of the time.

Other stations in our area aren’t doing much better. Out of 2,608 stations across the UK, Arlesey is ranked 2,600th, Letchworth is 2,592nd, Biggleswade is 2,588th, Sandy is 2,586th, Royston is 2,580th, Stevenage is 2,567th, Baldock is 2,558th, Knebworth is 2,537th and Ashwell & Morden is 2,526th.

According to Mr Collins, who represents the Liberal Democrats, problems have come from the fact the new Canal Tunnels in London were completed without time to train enough drivers to use them.

In an opinion column last week, Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami also said it was clear from meetings with Great Northern line operator Govia Thameslink and Network Rail that the main issue causing the chaos was a lack of trained drivers for the correct route.

He said the Labour Party’s call for a vote of no confidence in Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – which Conservative MPs rejected – was “nothing more than a political stunt”.

Mr Afolami commuted into the capital by train from Hitchin today with Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman.

East of England Labour MEP Alex Mayer, second from right, and councillors Mike Hughson, Val Bryant, Judi Billing and Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg make a point with 'Tory rail mayhem' scratchcards outside Hitchin railway station. Picture: Chris JonesEast of England Labour MEP Alex Mayer, second from right, and councillors Mike Hughson, Val Bryant, Judi Billing and Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg make a point with 'Tory rail mayhem' scratchcards outside Hitchin railway station. Picture: Chris Jones

Labour campaigned heavily on the railways this morning, with 500 ‘Tory rail mayhem’ scratchcards handed out to passengers at Hitchin station by East of England MEP Alex Mayer and councillors Judi Billing, Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg, Mike Hughson and Val Bryant.

Ms Mayer, whose own train to Hitchin was late, said: “It shouldn’t be a game of chance as to whether you get to work in the morning.

“Hard-working Hitchin commuters are now paying almost £4,000 for a season ticket to London under the Tories, while suffering unprecedented delays and cancellations.

“Labour wants investment in a 21st-century railway, a system that listens to passengers, and fairer fares – which is why we will bring the railways into public ownership, so they can be run for passengers and not for profit.”

Labour activists handing out leaflets in Royston included Jessica Finn, who said: “We need reliable, regular trains and for this mayhem to stop. The commuters of Royston deserve better.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, at centre of front row, with Stevenage Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Jill Borcherds and supporters outside Stevenage railway station. Picture: Stevenage LabourShadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, at centre of front row, with Stevenage Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Jill Borcherds and supporters outside Stevenage railway station. Picture: Stevenage Labour

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry joined Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Jill Borcherds at Stevenage station this morning, after also having her train delayed. Labour also planned to have a presence today at Letchworth, Baldock, Biggleswade and Sandy stations.

Amid the chronic problems on the rails, Govia Thameslink chief executive Charles Horton resigned on June 15. Govia Thameslink has repeatedly apologised to passengers and cited issues beyond its control.

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