Laying it on the line for rail users

TWO forces have met head to head over train services as councillors and MPs met with First Capital Connect for the first time. After months of campaigning by rail user groups over service cuts, changes and overcrowding, their local representatives formed

TWO forces have met head to head over train services as councillors and MPs met with First Capital Connect for the first time.

After months of campaigning by rail user groups over service cuts, changes and overcrowding, their local representatives formed a united front and went to the House of Commons to face the train company.

North Herts councillors Andrew Young, Steve Jarvis, David Billing and John Smith were present, along with MPs Peter Lilley and Oliver Heald.

John Campbell, chief executive of North Herts District Council, also attended.


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In the First Capital Connect (FCC) corner there was commercial director Hugh Clancy, managing director Elaine Holt and Phil Bustard, public affairs manager from Network Rail.

Under discussion were suggested timetable changes and the consultation between FCC and partners and users.

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Cllr Young said: "The meeting was tough but constructive and both sides had points to be made and they were made strongly.

"I believe we will see much more consultation and interaction from FCC, which is of great benefit to the hard pressed travellers in the region.

"Full facts from the meeting will be made available to all user groups when the new timetable is further consulted on from April onwards."

Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, said: "I was disappointed that there are no firm plans for improved disabled access to the London platform at Hitchin by First Capital Connect.

"I will continue pressing First Capital Connect to make our train stations readily accessible for all passengers.

"More carriages and longer trains are needed as soon as possible and I will continue to push for this.

"Railtrack representatives at the meeting acknowledged that there had been a high level of signal failure problems recently but First Capital Connect has put pressure on them for a much speedier response to these failures when they occur, and, I am glad to say, this seems to be improving the situation

A spokesman for First Capital Connect said: "We held a constructive meeting, with MPs Peter Lilley and Oliver Heald and North Hertfordshire District Council regarding our proposals to provide additional capacity on our services to Cambridge and King's Lynn.

"We will be meeting again after the local elections as we firm up our plans ready for any changes that will be introduced in May 2007.

"These new measures will help us cope with the rising demand over the next three to four years and will be welcome news for most of our passengers.

"We are aware that overcrowding problems won't be solved overnight but this is a positive step in the right direction.

"We are also working hard on long term solutions to increase capacity right across the network.

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