St Albans councillors seek reassurances from transport minister over timetable changes

Cllr Alec Campbell. Picture: James Ward/St Albans council

Cllr Alec Campbell. Picture: James Ward/St Albans council - Credit: Archant

A top transport minister has listened to the concerns of Harpenden commuters whose lives have been blighted by the current shabby service.

Although the whole Thameslink line has been experiencing disruption and cancellations for more than a month, Harpenden has been particularly affected by the changes.

This is because train operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has cut the number of scheduled services stopping at Harpenden by more than 30 per cent.

Last week the leader of St Albans district council (SADC), Cllr Alec Campbell, wrote to the Minister of State for Transport, Jo Johnson, to ask for a meeting about the issues.

SADC believes a lack of consultation over the decreased timetable was unlawful.

Planning portfolio holder Mary Maynard updated Thursday’s cabinet meeting about what was discussed with Mr Johnson.

She said: “We both explained the impact this [timetable] was having on Harpenden commuters. The first was that [passengers] had no certainty or ability to plan their journey time. We evidenced this yesterday morning when there was a 35 minute gap at the key point of 8.15am - when there was a drop in service. I think this morning evidence is on BBC News, you will see there was a signal failure at Luton and the entire service collapsed.

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“There were queues five or six deep at Harpenden station and they closed the station to more people, who were queueing in the car park. Apparently this lasted some considerable time.”

Cllr Maynard said Harpenden commuters have been promised a better service for 20 years now.

She described the problem as a health and safety issue after passengers have fainted on trains and slipped over in the crowds.

“It has been particularly frustrating for Harpenden commuters because they are standing crowded on platforms, watching half empty trains running through because they are not allowed to stop at Harpenden any more.”

Cllr Maynard said Mr Johnson promised to reconsider Harpenden after the timetables had been stabilised, reassuring the politicians that a new temporary timetable is being introduced in mid-July.

She suggested that changing the stopping pattern or accepting a three minute delay for Bedford commuters might help.