Thameslink timetable change brings disruption to St Albans and Harpenden railway network

Harpenden train station. Picture: Danny Loo.

Harpenden train station. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Govia Thameslink Railway has been criticised after a new timetable led to some services being cancelled.

The new timetable came into force on Sunday, May 20 and is intended to deliver 400 extra trains and space for 50,000 extra peak-time passengers, including on the Bedford to Brighton line, which serves St Albans, Harpenden and Radlett.

There has already been some disruption this week, with several people tweeting about overcrowding and delays at Harpenden and St Albans City on Monday.

The RMT union has christened it ‘Meltdown Monday’ and repeated their calls for the railways to be brought back under public ownership.

General secretary Mike Cash said: “The union is picking up reports from GTR of a hopeless lack of planning, combined with a shortage of crew and fleet, which has reduced the Monday morning journey to a nightmare for many passengers.

“It is our members dealing with the anger at the sharp end not the well-paid top brass from Govia, who are responsible for this Meltdown Monday on our railways.

“Both of these companies have sought to compromise safety and access by hacking back on critical staff and it is no surprise to RMT that they can’t be trusted with the massive logistical challenges of bringing in new timetables.

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“Frankly I wouldn’t trust the private train operators to run a bath let alone our vital rail routes.”

The introduction of the new timetables also means commuters from Harpenden will see fewer services stopping there at peak times, due to Thameslink having to stop at Bedford and Luton as well.

The arrivals board at Blackfriars station this morning. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway.

The arrivals board at Blackfriars station this morning. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway. - Credit: Archant

A few of these commuters have banded together to form Harpenden Thameslink Commuters, a new passenger group.

Their leader, Emily Ketchin, said: “There was a lot of disruption and confusion at Harpenden this morning as people were left unable to board trains.

“I set off early to make sure I was in London in good time so I caught the 7.50. It was standing room-only on arrival at Harpenden and by St Albans it became a very crowded train.

“Whilst standing on the platform one of the super-fast trains that now skips Harpenden speeded past and it did not appear to be fully-loaded, which is unacceptable.

The arrivals board at Victoria station this morning. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway.

The arrivals board at Victoria station this morning. Picture: Govia Thameslink Railway. - Credit: Archant

“There is no proper justification for those trains not to stop at Harpenden whilst we are all stood there on a crowded platform. Thameslink made a mistake with the new timetable and they need to put it right - and quickly.”

The new timetables were introduced as part of RailPlan20/20, a series of changes to the network so stations can accommodate longer and more frequent trains.

GTR has countered its critics by highlighting the number of services that were on time at London terminals Victoria and London Bridge.

Their spokesperson said: “Today was a major challenge as the new timetable was tested on the first full working day. There has been some disruption in the morning peak and we apologise to passengers for any difficulties with their journey.

“Passenger groups have acknowledged that overall the network coped well under exceptionally difficult circumstances, as we altered the departure and arrival times of thousands of services on the GTR network in the biggest change to timetables in a generation.

“Terminal stations coped well with the extra services, particularly Victoria and London Bridge.

“We expect some ongoing issues and in the meantime we have already introduced more than 350 extra timetabled services this week.

“We continue to work hard to deliver a step-change in capacity to ease congestion on the busiest part of the UK rail network as part of a £7bn investment in infrastructure and trains.

“We are implementing the biggest timetable change in a generation to boost capacity and improve reliability. Due to the scale and complexity of the task, these changes will be made incrementally.

“This involves redeploying drivers and trains and changing operating practices to achieve a large increase in the number of services, carriages and station stops.

“Despite some cancellations, passengers will benefit from an overall increase in capacity with immediate effect.

“We apologise to customers for any inconvenience caused. Anyone delayed by 15 minutes or more can claim compensation through our websites.”