Cautious welcome as new rail timetable rolled out

The interim timetable has started to ease pressures for commuters. Picture: Jason Flynn

The interim timetable has started to ease pressures for commuters. Picture: Jason Flynn - Credit: Archant

Letchworth commuters have started to see the effects of Govia Thameslink’s interim timetable this week, which has seen a decline in cancelled and delayed services.

The interim timetable was rolled out on Sunday to “mark a signifcant stage in the recovery plan” following weeks of disruption on their Great Northern line services.

In a joint statement, Letchworth Rail Users Group co-chair Leanne Stott and Royston and Villages Rail Users Group chair Edward Carder said: “We cautiously welcome early signs of stabilisations to the peaks of the interim timetable after eight weeks of chaos for commuters.

“There are however inherent problems with the July timetable – and indeed the overall structure of the ‘May’ timetable for stations in our area.

“These need addressing as soon as possible, so that there is a comparable level of service to that provided before May 20.

“In particular the current timetable is inadequate for shift workers, working parents and evening travellers.

“We continue to work with Govia and our MP to achieve this on behalf of our members.

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“We invite those concerned with the future of services to our stations to join us tonight from 6.45pm at the Brotherhood Hall in Gernon Road, Letchworth, for a meeting with Sir Oliver Heald and Govia representatives.”

This evening’s meeting will include a discussion around how commuters have found the introduction of the interim timetable, and goals for both near and long-term future timetables.

These suggestions include further Cambridge stops for Letchworth and Royston in evenings, services which start at Royston, more stops on services with seats and better evening provisions for Ashwell and Morden, and improved connections at Finsbury Park.

They will also discuss compensation, communication at stations and via apps providing train running information and communication about broader issues and developments within Govia.

Since Govia rolled out its Rail2020 timetable in May, commuters have faced daily delays and cancellations, and overcrowding on peak services to and from London and Cambridge.

Based on how many trains were late or cancelled in the last four weeks, recent data showed that stations in our area are ranked in the bottom 50 out of 2,606 in the UK.

Before the interim timetable was rolled out, Letchworth was ranked as being the seventh worst station and Hitchin followed closely behind as eighth worst.

Now, Letchworth is ranked as the 18th worst, and Hitchin the 30th.

Hitchin Rail Commuter campaigner Rosalind Southward said: “After a smoother day of travel on Tuesday, yesterday morning’s peak once again saw many delays and some cancellations.

“We still have yet to experience the promised robust and reliable timetable.

“It is important to remember that the May 20 timetable was already not adequate for Hitchin commuter needs.

“Even if this third timetable offers more reliability it certainly is not providing the capacity or frequency the Hitchin passenger footfall requires.”

Further up the line in Cambridgeshire commuters are similarly seeing slight improvements to services for both London and Cambridge,

Chair of Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group Susan van de Ven said: “It’s early days and we’ll have to see if reliability can be re-established in the coming weeks.

“The first couple of days saw the cancellation of the 7:46 (Foxton) to London, a key commuter service. Affected passengers have already suffered eight weeks of commuting hell and have no patience left for further cancellations.

“Between the villages and Cambridge, there have been a few cancellations but otherwise an OK service – let’s hope it stabilises.”

A Govia spokesman said: “The introduction of the interim timetable to give more reliability to Thameslink and Great Northern has gone well.

“Service levels and driver availability have improved and we are running a more reliable service in the peak hours.

“While overall the picture has improved, some signalling and engineering works have impacted services.

“At this important stage of the roll-out plan, we have begun operating 200 more daily services towards the 400 extra trains promised in the May timetable change.”