‘Revolution at Hitchin’ as commuters block train doors to get stops reinstated

PUBLISHED: 10:38 25 May 2018

The scene at Hitchin railway station as passengers physically blocked the train's doors to stop it leaving. Picture: Ben Leet

The scene at Hitchin railway station as passengers physically blocked the train's doors to stop it leaving. Picture: Ben Leet

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Frustrated commuters defiantly blocked train doors at Hitchin railway station yesterday in a successful protest against the last-minute removal of Arlesey, Biggleswade and Sandy stops.

Amid the protest, a massive queue formed outside the station for the replacement buses north  with more people inside waiting to get through the gates. Picture: Luisa HobbsAmid the protest, a massive queue formed outside the station for the replacement buses north  with more people inside waiting to get through the gates. Picture: Luisa Hobbs

Passengers on the Horsham-to-Peterborough train were told shortly before arriving at Hitchin that the service would now be skipping all stations until Huntingdon, and that anyone travelling to the three Bedfordshire towns or St Neots would have to get off and board a replacement bus.

But this decision caused such uproar that commuters refused to get off the train – which was already 30 minutes late – and physically blocked the doors to stop it from leaving. The stand-off ended only when Great Northern reinstated the stops.

Those on the train included Ben Leet, who tweeted at 4.56pm to tell Great Northern operator Govia Thameslink that passengers were so angry they were “physically preventing doors from closing on the train”.

“On Monday I thought I’d seen everything, with a Great Northern train going backwards,” he added. “Today I saw angry passengers hijack a train and reverse a last-minute alteration to not stop at three stations. Anger and frustration are building to dangerous levels now.”

The “revolution at Hitchin”, as Twitter user Paul Williams called it, has been widely applauded by commuters driven to despair by the new timetable introduced by Govia on Sunday.

Ros Southward, speaking on behalf of the Hitchin Rail Commuters group, said: “I was really not that surprised to hear about the protest. Commuters are exhausted. There is this constant stress about not knowing what trains are running and a total lack of clear information – it’s impossible to plan anything.

“Govia are not providing any concrete answers, and people feel like they are being fobbed off with the promise of this amazing extended timetable to destinations that in reality nobody asked for or needs.

“Last-minute changes to the point where you are told to get off a train because it’s no longer stopping at your station are nothing short of insulting, considering the amount we pay for rail tickets.”

A Govia spokesman said: “At times of severe disruption, a decision is sometimes made to miss stations to counter the domino effect of late-running trains holding up other services and delaying many more passengers on the same route and connecting routes.

“We sympathise with passengers who are affected directly, but urge people not to try to hold up a train, because it can disrupt thousands of other passengers’ journeys and there may be safety risks.”

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