We write regarding the delays to Platform 5 at Stevenage station. The huge increase in services and direct links to Gatwick and Brighton which start coming online from May 2018, due to Thameslink, means there is not enough capacity to have the Hertford Loop line using the current Platforms.
The delay to construction of Platform 5 occurred because there was uncertainty about the future of the existing station at a crucial moment in planning the new platform. The proposal by Stevenage Borough Council and request for Government funding to build a new station meant that the project to build platform 5 was put back. The proposal for a new station therefore delayed the construction of Platform 5, which was removed from Network Rail Control Period 5, as it could not be built before next year, when Control Period 6 begins. Our priority has always been to get on with the delivery of this new platform as fast as possible.
We have made our views on this to the Secretary of State for Transport very clear. Under pressure from ourselves, the Department of Transport led a Programme Board, which included Network Rail, Train Operating Companies and the Office of Rail and Road to identify a solution. We remain disappointed that Govia were unable to programme a service for Peak whilst the engineering works took place. We met with the previous Rail Minister on several occasions to push for progress on construction and ensured funding was not a problem. As far as we are aware, Stevenage Borough Council never met the Rail Minister or were involved in any of the discussions to resolve the problem they created.
Platform 5 is not just a new Platform, this only makes up 20% of the complex engineering works, there needs to be a significant section of new rail laid, electrified and new signaling installed and integrated. There have been irresponsible scare stories of 7 years engineering works, which we have always disputed as scaremongering. We have received confirmation in writing from the new Rail Minister that full design and construction is expected to take closer to two years and a bus replacement service will not be needed until December 2018, an improvement on the current plans of May 2018.
Once the platform is fully operational, then the new service and new trains available on this line will be welcome. We will continue to work with Ministers and Network Rail to resolve the issue for all of our constituents.
Rt Hon Sir Oliver Heald MP
Stephen McPartland MP
Mark Prisk MP
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