Timetable changes will have greatest impact north of Letchworth, say user groups
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Proposals for more timetable changes in our area have caused concerns for the rail users in Baldock and surrounding areas.
Baldock Rail User Group has been in contact with Govia Thameslink Rail to discuss the changes and offer amendments it believes would be better for the commuters in the town.
The group believes the changes are "particularly damaging" for those north of Letchworth, with Baldock being "potentially the worst affected", as it limits the number of services for stations prior to London.
One change Govia is proposing is to merge the current Cambridge stopping services - which it says causes delays between London King's Cross and Welwyn North - with the Baldock to King's Cross semi-fast services.
A Govia spokesman confirmed: "Under the new timetable proposals, we would be providing six trains per hour between Royston and London at broadly 10 minute intervals.
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"Baldock would see four fast trains to and from London at 10/20 minute intervals. To enable this, some existing direct peak services between Cambridge, Royston, Ashwell & Morden and Baldock, which currently call at all stations to and from Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield and Potters Bar, would require a change of train.
"During peak times these trains would operate between Letchworth Garden City and London King's Cross."
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The proposed May 2022 timetable has been developed by Network Rail with all train and freight operators on the East Coast Main Line.
A spokesman for the Baldock RUG said: "If the timetable is implemented as in addition to loss of stopping services, this the new timetable completely removes the morning London-bound trains that start at the station.
"To help raise awareness of the issues the Baldock user group have made an app to allow commuters to see directly the impact for the exact train they catch.
"The consultation provides a Govia Thameslink Rail (GTR) proposed May 2022 timetable. However the Rail Users Groups along the Cambridge spur - Letchworth, Baldock, Ashwell and Morden, Royston - are not happy with the consultation timetable."
The RUGs have teamed up and have been in discussions with GTR and has suggested alternative options which "deliver a better compromise for users along the line".
They seek to keep one Baldock starting service per hour in morning peak, add some capacity to Letchworth and Royston, and retain one (per hour) morning peak London-bound stopper service to intermediate stations including Hatfield and Welwyn.
The RUGs say that in discussions between themselves and GTR it was agreed this alternative was workable, but that tight deadlines with the Department for Transport meant it couldn't be put forward for the consultation.
They are hoping that a large enough consultation response will be enough to make GTR to deliver the alternative timetable that works for all stations on the branch.
Leanne Stott of the Letchworth Rail User Group added: "We fully support Baldock’s position on the timetable as a severe drop in service levels for one station will negatively impact other stations in terms of seating and connectivity with interim stations."
The changes, which would come into force on May 15, 2022, also include a change to the 18.42 London King's Cross to Peterborough service, which would call at Stevenage instead of Hitchin. The current 1854 King's Cross service to Cambridge would depart at 18.53 and would make an additional stop at Welwyn Garden City at 19.11. It would also call at Stevenage instead of Hitchin, and would no longer call at Ashwell and Morden.
The current 18.27 service from King's Cross to Letchworth would also terminate at Welwyn Garden City.
This comes following a major timetable change in May 2018 which wreaked havoc for commuters across Hertfordshire, and resulted in Govia Thameslink being issued with a £5 million fine.
GTR's head of strategic planning Phil Hutchinson said: "We've discussed a number of options with user groups along the route, and we now welcome their and other’s comments on the ideas shared for consultation, so that we can accommodate as many views within the final timetable as possible.
"We've worked with all other operators over the wider East Coast Main Line to strike the right balance, securing the future of faster services to and from London that are better spread and make best use of limited track capacity throughout the network, while matching passenger demand.
"We are aware of future housing developments within the area, and this has been central to our approach to the new timetable, providing trains when and where they are needed most now and in the future."
The consultation ends on August 5. Email email@example.com with May 2022 as the subject line.
For more information, see thameslinkrailway.com/timetableconsultation.
The timetable checker for Baldock passengers can be found at baldockrail.com/2022.