Transport Secretary heaps blame on GTR and Network Rail for train timetable disruption

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Picture: Chris McAndrew. Licence available at https://creativeco

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Picture: Chris McAndrew. Licence available at - Credit: Archant

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has yet again blamed the rail industry for disruption which affected Hitchin and Harpenden’s train services.

In a letter to Liberal Democrat peer Jenny Randerson, Mr Grayling calls out Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail for the disruption which engulfed services after a botched timetable change in May.

He previously blamed the rail industry for the disruption when, in June, he announced an inquiry to see whether GTR should have the franchise to run services taken away.

This is despite the Department for Transport (DfT), which Mr Grayling is responsible for, issuing the original order to GTR to put on extra services from Bedford and Luton, which many blame for depriving services from Harpenden.

He writes: “I agree that performance on Thameslink and Great Northern services in Hertfordshire has been completely unacceptable since the timetable change on May 20. Large numbers of cancellations and gaps in services have left passengers understandably frustrated.

“Network Rail was far too late in finalising planned timetable changes and this must not happen again. GTR was not sufficiently prepared to manage a timetable change of this scale either. The rail industry has collectively failed to deliver for the passengers it serves, but please be assured my officials are in daily contact with GTR and Network Rail to improve the service to passengers.

“My department’s overriding priority is to ensure GTR restore the reliability of service across the network. We are taking action to resolve the problems as quickly as possible, to ensure passengers are compensated appropriately and to learn the lessons that will prevent this happening in the future.”

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GTR is currently contacting customers who held season tickets during the disruption and are eligible for compensation. Season ticket holders who believe themselves to be eligible, but were not contacted, can apply for compensation from the end of September.

As the timetable change had to be implemented at quite short notice after DfT ordered them to put on more services at Bedford and Luton, GTR did not have time to put rolling stock and drivers in the right place to make the changes.

After the disruption began, GTR introduced an interim timetable in July which removed five services from Harpenden in the morning peak, resulting in a loss of 44 carriages.

Mr Grayling wrote that once stability has been restored, GTR will reintroduce services until the May 20 timetable is properly in place. This will mean four fewer carriages in the morning peak in Harpenden when compared to the timetable before May.

Hitchin has lost two services in the morning under the interim timetable, but will see four more services under the May 20 timetable. It has lost one evening service under the interim timetable, but will see three more under the May 20 timetable.

Harpenden commuters will have to wait until December 2020 for two more services each hour, as that is when the Midland Main Line improvements are set to be completed.

Hitchin will get one extra service each hour, every day when the Cambridge to Brighton service doubles in frequency. This was originally planned for December 2018, but was postponed after the disruption.