“The misery that has been inflicted on passengers is outrageous”: St Albans and Harpenden MPs confront Chris Grayling over #ThameslinkFail

Passengers waiting for trains at Harpenden station. Picture: Josephine Cumbo.

Passengers waiting for trains at Harpenden station. Picture: Josephine Cumbo. - Credit: Archant

St Albans MP Anne Main has met with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling after two weeks of chaos on the constituency’s railways.

Commuters have complained of delays, cancellations and overcrowding on Thameslink services since a new timetable was introduced on Sunday, May 20.

Mrs Main said: “The disruption caused to passengers is absolutely unacceptable. I have said it so many times before, but St Albans commuters pay exorbitant fees for this service and the misery that has been inflicted on them is outrageous.’

“This was the combination of late scheduling of the timetable by Network Rail and an overly optimistic approach to the roll out by Thameslink that caused this mess.

“Many of my constituents have expressed their frustration and anger and I wanted to make that absolutely clear to Chris Grayling during my meeting. I appreciate his department is working hard to put this right, but that must be done quickly and with considerable compensation.

“The priority is to get the service running to the level commuters expect and when the dust settles we need a thorough investigation into how this shambles took place.”

Mrs Main has said Network Rail’s mistakes poured scorn on their vague timetabling promises around the mooted rail freight interchange at Radlett Aerodrome.

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Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami has co-signed a letter from MPs to the Transport Secretary, imploring him for information on what is being done to fix the problems.

Mr Afolami asked Chris Grayling after this statement: “I know the inquiry he has announced will look into culpability on this matter, but how much more evidence do we need that the senior management of Network Rail and GTR are incompetent, incapable and inept? How long can they go on?”

To which the minister replied: “We need to establish who is directly responsible for the decision making that has been got wrong here, establish the truth through the Glaister review and then take appropriate action—and we will.”

Harpenden Thameslink commuters representative Emily Ketchin said: “Ultimately, what we need now are trains. The current situation is shambolic and a full inquiry looking at not only Thameslink, but also the DfT and Network rail should be undertaken.

“The work that is being undertaken to fix the current mess must include action to immediately remedy the cut of a third in key Harpenden services.

“Thameslink has gone out of its way to make claiming delay repay neigh on impossible by deleting trains from the timetable that are supposed to be running, so passengers have no visibility of what trains should have run.

“Proper compensation should be made available for all passengers that reflects the extra costs that are being incurred, such as taxis and extra child costs.

“But even with proper compensation we will not get back the missed time with our families and that is unforgivable.”