Few trains stopping at Harpenden to cause ‘real hardship’ for passengers

Harpenden station during rush hour. Picture: Emily Ketchin

Harpenden station during rush hour. Picture: Emily Ketchin - Credit: Archant

Harpenden passengers will be left in the lurch after Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) refused to allow more trains to stop at the station.

Emily Ketchin of Harpenden Thameslink Commuters Group has spoken out against Thameslink's decision.

Emily Ketchin of Harpenden Thameslink Commuters Group has spoken out against Thameslink's decision. Picture: Penny Bird - Credit: Archant

Group leaders at St Albans district council have written in protest at GTR's decision to stick to their existing timetable until December 2020, warning that this will cause "considerable frustration" and "real hardship" for passengers.

GTR carried out a public consultation following complaints that not enough trains were stopping at Harpenden at peak times under a new timetable which was introduced last year.

However following the consultation they have announced that services through Harpenden will not be increased.

In a letter to Tom Moran, managing director of Thameslink and Great Northern, the group leaders said they were "very disappointed" with the company's decision.

They wrote: "Every day, we receive reports from our constituents of over-crowded trains and late-running services. Your decision will cause considerable frustration for the large number of Harpenden residents who use your service for their daily commute."

Data shows that Luton station has 29 per cent more trains at peak morning times than Harpenden, but 31 per cent fewer passengers.

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The group leaders added: "Harpenden commuters have reported waiting for overcrowded slow trains as half-empty fast trains run without stopping at the station.

"We hope that you will work to resolve this issue with the needs of Harpenden rail users in mind."

The letter was signed by council leader and Lib Dem group leader Cllr Chris White, Conservative group leader Cllr Mary Maynard, Labour group leader Cllr Malachy Pakenham and Green and Independent group leader Cllr Simon Grover.

Emily Ketchin of Harpenden Thameslink Commuters' Group said: "Thameslink slashed a third of key Harpenden services without any consultation. They seem to care more about their loss of face if they admit their mistake than they do about the people who are forced to use their service to get to work."

Thameslink and Great Northern managing director Tom Moran said: "I would like to thank the thousands of passengers that responded to our consultation.

"We are maintaining the current timetable and will not be making any changes to services at Luton or Harpenden.

"This does mean that we are not able to introduce additional services at Harpenden in the short term and we recognise that this decision will be a disappointment to some passengers.

"We have been clear that we could only provide extra services at Harpenden by removing them from Luton and the consultation result has made very clear that doing so would cause real hardship to the passengers who currently rely on the Luton services.

"Harpenden has 17 fast services in the morning peak.

"In December 2020, with the reinstatement by East Midlands Railway of stops at Bedford and Luton, we will be able to introduce five additional fast services to Harpenden in the morning peak, giving a total of 22.

"We are working very closely with the new East Midlands Railway franchise to make this happen by integrating our future timetable plans and allowing them to use our depot at Bedford Cauldwell to bring additional trains on to the network."