Chaos as crowded station is closed

PUBLISHED: 11:58 06 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:01 06 May 2010

ST ALBANS CITY station was closed during the morning rush hour on Tuesday after cancelled trains caused the platforms to become dangerously overcrowded. Sixteen of the 57 peak-time southbound Thameslink trains that call at Harpenden, St Albans and Radlett

ST ALBANS CITY station was closed during the morning rush hour on Tuesday after cancelled trains caused the platforms to become dangerously overcrowded.

Sixteen of the 57 peak-time southbound Thameslink trains that call at Harpenden, St Albans and Radlett were cancelled due to signal failure.

At St Albans, commuters were having to queue to even get into the station and the platforms became so crowded that First Capital Connect (FCC) staff had to close the station doors several times to stop more passengers coming in.

Commuter Stephen Green-grass, aged 48, of Sandpit Lane, arrived at the station at 7.40am to find the information boards showing cancellations but there were no tannoy announcements explaining why.

When he asked a member of staff what was happening, he was told it was the customers' fault that there were no station announcements because they had complained that the tannoy was too noisy.

Mr Greengrass, a consultant, said that every train that arrived at the station was full to capacity and the only people getting on them were those prepared to fight and push their way on.

He was even more unhappy when the FCC text service that warns commuters of problems told him about the cancellations an hour after he arrived at the station.

He pointed out that Midland Mainline trains were passing through the station with plenty of space on them and Thameslink trains running north had only a handful of passengers on them.

He said: "It was nice to hear we could use our tickets on the Great Northern route to London via Hatfield even though two-and-a-half, hours after the incident, FCC had not put on any coaches to Hatfield."

Dismal

At 9am, Mr Greengrass managed to get on an overcrowded train which arrived at City Thameslink one hour and 40 minutes late.

He said: "FCC showed a dismal lack of any kind of customer care during the problem. There is a lot that they could have done to make things easier for commuters."

FCC communications project manager Amanda Shaw explained that the cancellations were caused by a piece of machinery that damaged signals during engineering works being carried out by Network Rail.

She said normal service was resumed at around 1pm and text messages were sent out at 7.15am and 8.30am.

She added that staff at St Albans City had closed the station several times in the interests of customer safety.

Ms Shaw that they had not arranged for buses to take people to Hatfield because, based on previous experience, passengers would get to London quicker on the remaining trains than if they organised buses to drive to St Albans in peak time traffic and then take people to Hatfield.

She added: "Approximately 20,000 people use St Albans station each day and we are acutely aware of the disruption cancelled trains caused. We are working closely with Network Rail to keep such problems to a minimum."

On Monday, a set of points had failed near Cricklewood causing a reduced service to run on the Thameslink line.

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