Yesterday was supposed to be a really great day for train users and the culmination of a £7billion investment in our railways. Thousands more seats, lots more additional services and new destinations to help Stevenage and Knebworth continue to lead economic growth in Hertfordshire. It did not feel that way and as a commuter myself, I shared the pain of many of my constituents yesterday as the new timetable for our area went live. It was not the greatest start by Govia, but from the frontline staff I chatted to, it was clear they were doing their best to try and make it work.
I also talked to local people on my journey into London and home just after 11pm last night. It appears a number of the services are being classed as cancelled, because the trains are not currently on the line, but the timetable still ran an additional 350 services overall, with daily improvements expected over the next few weeks. There are no excuses for Govia not being ready and while we can all accept some teething problems, there does need to be significant improvement quickly, if we are going to feel the benefit of more seats, services and destinations.
Preparations for this new timetable began back in 2016 and I responded to every stage of the consultations over the last two years. I was successful at the very start in getting Govia to make some amendments specifically for Knebworth. We actually saved the fast trains to mainline London stations, at the very beginning and they updated their consultation document on 10th November 2016 to reflect this.
All of my responses are on my website and the first is here.
I do know that the number of responses to the consultation from my constituency was very low overall, but this may be because I had already saved the fast trains to mainline London stations from Knebworth and both Stevenage and Knebworth see an overall increase in services.
The timetable is a huge change, affecting 3000 services and concerns every train from Peterborough to Brighton. Once it is fully up and running, the new timetable will transform how we access ongoing connections, into and out of London, moving forward. Many local people will continue through to London Blackfriars, instead of Kings Cross or St Pancras and enter the tube system at that point.
Rest assured, I share the pain of cancellations and delays, as I am a commuter too. I discussed many of the concerns that have been raised with Govia’s Head of Timetable last week. I will continue to contact Govia, meet them regularly and raise issues directly with the Secretary of State.
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