Chaos for commuters in North Herts and Central Beds as new timetable is rolled out

PUBLISHED: 18:29 23 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:29 23 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

There has been chaos for commuters in North Herts and Central Beds and surrounding towns this week, as Govia's new timetable roll out has seen trains cancelled, delayed and staff shortages.

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

The timetable came into effect on Sunday at 2am – by Monday morning many trains had been cancelled or were delayed, causing overcrowding on some services and commuters left stranded.

Sunday’s launch also did not run as smoothly as possible as services were cancelled and delayed due to a “shortage of available train crew.”

Melanie Crank from Biggleswade says overcrowding on trains to London under the new timetable is ‘utter chaos’.

“I have regularly caught the 8:08 – or 8:10 as it once was – which started as an eight car service,” she said.

“Following the introduction of new trains and longer platforms, it then became a 12 car service which was in response to demand as it gets you into London for 9am – or just before now.

“The new timetable has reduced the service to back to eight cars which is the timetabled formulation according to Govia’s response to me.

“This service since Monday has only had a couple of seats available at Biggleswade, and in fact appeared busier on Tuesday than Monday – where it was utter chaos.

“Then there are a high number of passengers joining the train which results in passengers in the aisles and packing in by the doors, so from my perspective this is not an improved service. However, increased services when travelling home do help and merit and improvement.”

However, working mum Samantha Boyd is one of few people that are happy with the new timetable as it allows her to get the train direct from Biggleswade to Farrington, where she works.

“Personally I am very pleased with this timetable,” she said.

“As a working mum, being able to get a train directly to Farringdon gives me an extra half an hour at home in the morning, to spend with my toddler. “In over ten years of commuting I’ve never been able to get a train door to door before, so the new timetable makes my life a lot easier.

“It seems there was a lack of drivers on Monday, but Tuesday was a lot better.

“Although my train home isn’t running for another two weeks, I now get to have breakfast with my little girl before heading to the station.

“Commuting costs a huge amount of money and it works out cheaper for me to buy an annual season ticket even though I only work 4 days.

“It’s a massive expense, so anything that gives me a little bit of time back is very welcome.”

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.

Co-chair of the Letchworth Rail Users Group 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.

“I think Govia and the Department for Transport really do need to look again at the services for the stations in our area.”

Leanne has been working closely with the group’s Royston and Ashwell counterparts and has been in communications with Govia which was set up in summer last year.

She said the Letchworth, Royston and Ashwell groups will be involved in a public meeting with North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald and representatives from Govia at the end of July to discuss further suggestions for improvement.

Charles Marandu from Baldock tweeted while commuting on Monday morning: “This service is delayed and totally packed. An unsurprising consequence of collapsing three fast trains into one.

After the Comet caught up with him later, he added: “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.”

Sir Oliver Heald has been working on getting answers for the many commuters in his constituency that are unhappy and called in Govia’s passenger services director Stuart Cheshire to the House of Commons on Tuesday.

At the call in Sir Oliver read out a list of passengers’ concerns and asked for Mr Cheshire to account for Govia’s actions and failure over recent days.

According to Sir Oliver, Mr Cheshire apologised profusely for the cancellations and delays and explained that there are and have been a range of issues beyond Govia’s control, but accepted that Govia had not done enough to explain the difficulties in advance.

A spokesman for Govia, which runs the Great Northern service, said: “Monday 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.

To have a look at the new timetable, go to railplan2020.com/timetables.

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