Local MP Grant Shapps has made a formal submission to Phase 2 of Govia Thameslink Railway’s (GTR) consultation on the 2018 timetable changes.
In a letter to Charles Horton, Chief Executive of GTR, Grant outlined the concerns expressed to him by constituents and local rail user groups who in many cases rely on the service to get to work. The full text of the letter can be found below.
Some of the major criticisms raised by constituents surrounded the proposed removal of direct services to Peterborough, thus reducing connectivity to the North, increased journey times to and from London, and reduced off-peak services on the Great Northern Metro timetable.
Grant said: “I have been contacted by many of my constituents who have severe concerns at the proposed changes to the Great Northern service. Thousands of people, including myself, commute from stations such as Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield every day and so these changes will have a major impact on their work and family lives. I have made clear to Govia that I am unhappy with many of the proposals, and I expect to see the concerns of Welwyn Hatfield residents addressed in the finalised timetable.”
I am writing to you as the Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield to make my submission to the GTR 2018 Timetable Consultation Phase 2. As you will know, the GTR franchise serves my constituents at a number of stations which will be affected by the proposed changes.
Following the publication of the Phase 2 consultation document, I invited my constituents to contact me with their concerns about the proposals, and I have enclosed a selection of correspondence that I have received on this issue. Many of my constituents use Great Northern to commute into central London on a daily basis, including myself, and I believe it is only right that their views are considered on the future of rail services in Welwyn Hatfield.
One of the major concerns expressed to me has been the proposed reduction in services from Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield stations during the morning peak. In particular, the 7.42am service is being removed, leaving just two London-bound trains stopping at these stations between 7.30am and 8.00am. With overcrowding already extremely high, it makes little sense to me to propose a reduced service.
Another concern involves the proposal to have two northbound services depart from Kings Cross in the mid-evening peak services, as opposed to St Pancras. This will clearly create unnecessary confusion for my constituents
I note that GTR propose to end direct services to Peterborough from stations in my constituency, and will instead have all trains on the Great Northern mainline departing and arriving at Cambridge. Services to Peterborough currently provide my constituents with greater connectivity to destinations in the North, and to lose this direct service would, in my view, be a backwards step at a time when central Government rail policy seeks to enhance connectivity, not diminish it. The decision to make all of the services in my constituency run on the Cambridge line, a double track line, means that any blockages on this line would cause an immediate knock-on effect for all subsequent services. I am not aware of any contingency plans made by GTR on this issue, but this proposal has the potential to cause severe problems for passengers.
The increased journey times to and from central London have also been raised with me by a number of my constituents. I notice that on some morning peak services it is as much as 6 minutes longer commuting into London. A particular example highlighted to me is a journey from Finsbury Park to Hatfield taking 30 minutes from 2018, when it is currently only 14 minutes. This doubling of journey times will have a significant impact on commuters, many of whom will be forced to make alternative arrangements for childcare and further travel.
I also note that the Phase 2 consultation still plans to have Welham Green and Brookmans Park stations served by 2 trains per hour off-peak, a reduction from the 3 trains per hour currently, whereas other stations on the Great Northern Metro service will be served by 4 trains per hour. Once again, I fail to see any logical reason why two stations in my constituency should not be served by all Great Northern Metro services during the day. This is an unfairness which I believe is unjustified and should be addressed.
Another issue brought to my attention is the extra parking spaces needed at Welwyn North station, particularly as the 2018 proposals for this station will potentially attract more passengers. I would be grateful if you could update me on what GTR’s plans currently are to increase the parking facilities at Welwyn North.
Finally, on a matter which is not included in the consultation, as you will be aware last year I invited local residents in the Digswell area to have their say about changing the name of Welwyn North Station to Digswell. A majority of residents who took part were in principle supportive of a name change. I would therefore like to know what plans there are to facilitate this name change which would better reflect the views of the community.
I would be very happy to meet with you to discuss my concerns with your proposals in more detail, but I hope that the points I have raised along with others will be seriously considered and taken into account when the final timetable is published.
Grant Shapps MP