Hitchin Trains: an update from our meeting with Hitchin, Harpenden and Knebworth commuter groups

May 9, 2018 1:59 PM

Last week, we wrote a quick piece for our site about problems with the incoming train timetable that adversely affect commuters from Hitchin.

After that post went online, we were inundated with messages from concerned commuters in Hitchin. But we were also informed of significant problems for travellers from Harpenden, as well as broader issues in North Hertfordshire.

On Tuesday 9th May, we met up with representatives of Hitchin, Harpenden and Knebworth's commuter groups to discuss the adverse impact that the timetable is set to have on local communities.

In particular, we identified a number of issues that are common to commuters from across the area:

  • Either the loss or rescheduling of trains during the rush hour has an effect on workers, but it disproportionately affects anyone with childcare arrangements that cannot be changed to suit a timetable shift.
  • Overcrowding on peak services between 7:45 and 8:10 on any of the lines through the area is already a problem and a reduction in services will - obviously - make this worse. This means that the franchise operator will be in breach of their obligation to prevent commuters standing for more than 20 minutes at a time during peak hours.
  • A specific additional issue for Hitchin is the division of similarly timed services between Kings Cross and St Pancras. In the event of a cancellation or alteration, this is likely to lead to a surge of people travelling between the two stations. This will cause inconvenience, but it is also likely to be unsafe too.

As a result of this meeting, our parliamentary candidate Sam Collins will be taking these concerns to Great Northern. He will also be attempting to arrange deeper conversations with Network Rail and the Department of Transport. Additionally, he is also set to raise the issue with Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords shortly.

However, the meeting also produced a number of practical actions for affected commuters take to lend their support to the cause:

  • Commuters should issue formal complaints to Great Northern. Operators are assessed by how many complaints they receive and resolve, but they only count concerns that are directed to them through official channels (e.g. not social media). This means it is important to put any concerns through their official complaints process, which can be found here. It is also recommended to claim for delay repay here when a service is late, as this provides tangible evidence of problems with services.
  • However, it is also helpful for affected commuters to support relevant campaigns on social media to demonstrate issues such as overcrowding. You can find Harpenden's commuter group on Facebook here and their Twitter page here. Hitchin's Facebook group can be found here and Knebworth's here.
  • Finally, while there isn't much time to affect the timetable now, there is time to affect the Autumn timetable later this year. Key decisions on that will be made on the 22nd June, which means that there is at least a full month after the timetable rolls out to get your voice heard.

It will be difficult to resolve the problems with the timetable quickly and it may take some time for the situation to improve.

However, we're heartened by the great work that local commuter groups have done in opposing it so far and believe that concerted community feedback is likely to have an impact in the mid to long term.