Rail chief faces angry commuters

PUBLISHED: 11:03 02 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:08 06 May 2010

ANGRY commuters grilled a rail company chief over controversial plans to axe some fast services to King s Cross. Managing director of First Capital Connect (FCC) Elaine Holt met with residents from Ashwell for a question-and-answer session. The debate ste

ANGRY commuters grilled a rail company chief over controversial plans to axe some fast services to King's Cross.

Managing director of First Capital Connect (FCC) Elaine Holt met with residents from Ashwell for a question-and-answer session.

The debate stemmed from FCC's decision to cancel the 7.03am train from Ashwell station from December 10 because of overcrowding.

The train, which comes from Cambridge, will also not stop at Baldock.

And there are plans to replace the 8.03, 18.15 and the 18.45 fast trains with slower trains.

FCC has already abolished off-peak fares for passengers on trains leaving King's Cross between 4.30pm and 7pm and travelling between Stevenage and Cambridge.

Commuter Sarah Duckett, 41, said: "I feel like a rug has been pulled from underneath us.

"People chose to live in Ashwell because it's a good place to bring up children and previously had good train services, but now they are making it extremely hard for us to commute.

"This is a going to affect hundreds of people. A lot of us have young children and it's vital that we spend time with them in the morning and evening. Adding extra time to our journeys will mean less time with our families."

At the meeting, Mrs Holt said: "We are talking about some of the busiest trains in the country and the bottom line is to solve the overcrowding problems.

"Changes have to be made which means there will be winners and losers.

"This is not just an Ashwell issue and we are trying hard to tackle a very difficult situation.

"We are committed to improving the capacity situation which is a very big problem."

Mrs Duckett said: "This will not help with overcrowding issues as people will just drive to Letchworth and get on there."

Resident Gregor Campbell, 52, said: "The meeting was good and I am optimistic about the future. They have listened and they may act on what they have heard."

Mrs Holt said: "I understand what residents are saying and we will go away and have one last look.

"There is no reason why changes can't be made next year but, as far as plans for this year, it doesn't look like there is much room for manoeuvre.

"I will come back again before a final decision is made and specifically look at the plans. It is important that we work together."

Mrs Duckett said: "We've raised our concerns and there is very little that we can now do.

"I just hope that she has listened and that the trains remain.

"I'm optimistic that something can be done and we must respond again at the next meeting.

"We need to pull together as a community and see that improvements are made next year.

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