Herts County Council condemn Thameslink and government for disruption caused by timetable changes

Cllr Steve Jarvis.

Cllr Steve Jarvis. - Credit: Archant

A damning motion condemning the ongoing problems with Govia rail services has received all-party support at County Hall.

Members backed a motion lambasting the chaos caused by Govia Thameslink Railway, Network Rail and the Department of Transport at a meeting of the full council.

It came after commuters complained the timetable change introduced by Thameslink across the region on Sunday, May 20 had resulted in cancellations, delays and overcrowding on rush hour trains.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Cllr Steve Jarvis said: “Herts commuters and other travellers have been let down by Govia, who have planned a new timetable that does not meet their needs, by Network Rail, who are responsible for trains being replaced by buses between Stevenage and Hertford perhaps for as long as two years, and the Department of Transport, who ordered new trains without enough seats and prioritised services to Horsham and Brighton over maintained and improved services to London.

“Now, to make matters even worse, Govia have failed to introduce the new timetable properly and are cancelling large numbers of trains every day.

“Some reports suggest they knew several months ago they would not be able to introduce the new services as planned, but they are apparently still unable to tell passengers which trains will run the next day.

“Hopefully those running our railways so poorly will take some notice when the county council adds its voice to those of thousands of commuters and other travellers.”

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Following a second week of delays, Govia Thameslink has been criticised by the RMT trades union for not preparing properly for the timetable change.

A GTR spokesperson said: “Our new May timetable is based on careful analysis and consultation. Once fully implemented it will meet passenger needs by targeting capacity where it’s most needed.

“On Thameslink trains arriving into St Pancras from the Bedford route each morning peak, it creates space for over 18,500 more passengers which includes over 3,800 more standard class seats.

“The timetable presents a significant logistical challenge as we make rolling incremental changes across more than 3,000 daily services.

“It is the biggest change to rail timetables in a generation and, as we have been informing passengers, we expect some disruption to services in the initial stages.”

Thameslink has also revised a leaflet advising staff not to help disabled passengers onboard trains due to depart, as this would delay the service.

The leaflet had been seized by the RMT, who called for Thameslink to be stripped of its franchise.

A Department for Transport spokesperson responded to the cancellations: “The Transport Secretary has been clear that the disruption suffered by passengers due to the new timetable has been unacceptable.

“Expanding the Thameslink network will transform travel across London and the south east, with new trains providing improved connectivity and increased capacity for Hertfordshire passengers travelling to London.

“The Government-sponsored £7bn Thameslink Programme is an ambitious 10-year programme of extensive infrastructure enhancements, new trains and a new timetable on one of the busiest and most congested parts of the rail network.

“Thousands of passengers are already benefitting from capacity increases on routes.”

The wider problems endured by passengers has now elicited an apology from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The rail industry is working together to finalise the plan for reinstating a full train service between Stevenage and Hertford North, via Watton-at-Stone.

“Network Rail is aiming to complete a fifth platform and 1.5m of a new electrified line at Stevenage to enable train services to be resumed and is looking to accelerate the programme as far as possible.”