Hitchin committee backs commuters over Great Northern rail ‘hell’

PUBLISHED: 09:34 06 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:51 06 June 2018

Hitchin committee chairman Ian Albert, pictured speaking at a TUC conference in 2015. Picture: Andrew Aitchison

Hitchin committee chairman Ian Albert, pictured speaking at a TUC conference in 2015. Picture: Andrew Aitchison

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Hitchin’s area committee has thrown its weight behind commuters driven to despair by the controversial new Great Northern rail timetable.

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

The committee passed a statement in support of rail users last night after a presentation from Hitchin Rail Commuter campaigners Ros Southward and Beccy Forrow.

Self-employed yoga teacher Ros told the meeting that commuting under the new timetable brought in on May 20 had been “hellish”, with trains constantly delayed and cancelled – causing huge stress for commuters, especially working parents whose childcare arrangements were hit.

Beccy added that the timetable changes had been confirmed two weeks before coming into effect rather than the required 12, meaning there weren’t enough trained drivers in place.

Councillor Simon Harwood, a Conservative member of the newly Labour-run committee, said he had been commuting into London for 20 years and never had problems until now.

Labour councillor Elizabeth Dennis – who has become exasperated by her own commute into London – thanked Ros and Beccy for their campaigning work, and urged anyone having trouble with Great Northern’s Delay Repay compensation scheme to seek help from their councillors.

The committee’s statement begins: “Hitchin committee is deeply concerned that the rail industry has failed to look after the interests of Hitchin residents in the planning and subsequent implementation of the Railplan 20/20 timetable changes. We condemn the way that this has been handled.”

It calls for Network Rail and Great Northern line operator Govia Thameslink to publish the risk assessment done before the changes, and details of remedial actions “to correct mistakes and careless timetabling”.

It concludes: “We will work closely with residents and with local rail groups such as Hitchin Rail Commuters and Hitchin Rail Users Group to help ensure remedial and new train timetables are fit for purpose and that disastrous changes like this can never happen again.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Sam Collins said it had been hoped to have a public meeting with Govia in Hitchin on June 20, but that Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami was now organising his own meeting in the week starting June 25 – meaning Govia no longer wanted to come to the proposed June 20 meeting.

This was a problem, Mr Collins said, because there was a deadline on June 22 regarding how the timetable will change in December.

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