East Coast trains from Stevenage back on track

CONTROVERSIAL plans to cut rail services from Stevenage to cities in the north have been changed after lobbying from senior political and business figures in the town.

The proposals were part of East Coast’s project Eureka! and would have meant that trains travelling through Stevenage to northern cities such as York, Newcastle and Edinburgh would be reduced.

Chairman of East Coast, Elaine Holt, said: “In an earlier draft of the timetable, which East Coast published last year, weekday services to Stevenage were slightly reduced.

“However having listened to the views of customers and stakeholders, including Stephen McPartland (MP for Stevenage), East Coast now plans to actually increase, not reduce, the number of weekday services that stop at Stevenage by 18 per day, from 40 per day to 58 services per day from May.

“Good connections will help maintain East Coast journeys between Stevenage and North East England and Scotland, where there is less demand for direct links.”

Mr McPartland has been talking with senior figures from the rail company and claims that it is his influence that has swayed the firm.

He said: “I am pleased the negotiation has been successful for both Stevenage and East Coast, as it is important we work well with our partners and develop constructive relationships. I am delighted that the East Coast ticket office will remain open at Stevenage station and we have secured extra services.”

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Mr McPartland also said that Stevenage Borough Council had not replied to a consultation on the decision, which Sharon Taylor leader of the council denies.

She said: “We haven’t got the new timetable yet so it’s very difficult for us to know what has been done.

“What I can tell you is that in a letter which we sent in November, we have made very strong representation on this issue by working with our county councillors, through our business and through the council, so that’s just not true.

“Stephen has already had a meeting with East Coast set up so he would be able to discuss this with them, it may be that he’s privy to other information.”

“I would say that I am pleased that he is working with us on this, we all need to work together on this issue.”

Mrs Taylor also told The Comet that the council had a meeting with East Coast arranged for the next couple of weeks.

As well as local politicians negotiating, Stevenage Business Forum wrote to the Minister for Transport calling on her not to approve changes to the timetable on the East Coast main line.

Yolanda Rugg, North and East Herts area director for The Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce & Industry (HCCI) Business Forum brought the proposed timetable reductions to the attention of leading employers in the town who were not aware of the changes, and whose commuters and visitors rely heavily on the station and chose to locate and grow their organisations because of the transport network in place.

“The HCCI business forum has significant support from the employers in Stevenage to produce a sustainable transport plan for Gunnels Wood, to help reduce the congestion on the roads, so are delighted to see the progress made from this campaign.”

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