Thameslink is asking passengers who use Harpenden and Luton stations for their views on a temporary timetable change that would give Harpenden more services each weekday, and Luton fewer. Suggestions are also being invited for other ways to increase peak-time capacity while East Midlands trains are not serving the route.
Plans to increase Thameslink services at both stations last year had to be delayed to make up for the temporary loss of East Midlands services at Bedford and Luton until December 2020, during the upgrade of the Midland Mainline north of Bedford.
The consultation is in response to some Harpenden passengers who have said they need more capacity sooner than the end of next year. Thameslink is looking at changes that might be introduced in December this year.
Any change made would be aimed at spreading passengers out on the trains during the peak periods in the morning and evening.This would be a temporary arrangement until the stops on the East Midlands services are re-instated in December 2020.
Passenger groups are being contacted and invited to take part in an on-line survey, and Thameslink senior managers and members of the timetable planning team will be at the stations at the following times to hear passengers’ views and fill in paper surveys:
Wednesday 24 July 16:30 – 19:30
Thursday 1 August 06:30 – 09:30
Wednesday 4 September 16:30 – 19:30
Thursday 25 July 06:30 – 09:30
Wednesday 31 July 16:30 – 19:30
Thursday 5 September 06:30 – 09:30
Tom Moran, Managing Director for Thameslink, said: "This is an important decision, so we want to ask passengers what impact any such change would have on them before taking any action. We have an open mind and welcome feedback.
“I would like to thank passengers in advance for their contributions, which we value highly. We will provide an update in the autumn.”
The towns’ MPs are backing the consultation and are encouraging their constituents to make their views known.
Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, said: “We all know that Harpenden needs more frequent trains at rush hour. I encourage everyone to take part in this consultation - let’s work together to find a practical way forward to achieve the necessary results.”
Gavin Shuker, the MP for Luton South said: "Luton is a growing, vibrant town with a population which needs more trains and not fewer. This is an incredibly important consultation for all residents of the town, and I would like as many people as possible to take part and have their say.”
Passengers can access the on-line survey from Thameslink’s web site at https://www.thameslinkrailway.com/about-us/our-commitments/improving-your-railway.
Background note to editors:
Before the May 2018 timetable change, fast East Midlands Trains into London stopped at Bedford and Luton.This meant that fast Thameslink Trains on the Bedford to Brighton route could stop at Bedford, Flitwick, Leagrave, Luton, Harpenden and St Albans, giving customers at those stations a fast and regular journey into London.GTR had been planning to enhance this in May 2018.
Unfortunately, owing to delayed upgrades to the Midland Mainline, it was decided in November 2017 that East Midlands trains would no longer stop at Bedford or Luton for a temporary period.Therefore, the timetable change in May 2018 saw the temporary removal of Luton and Bedford stops from East Midlands Trains’ peak services.To mitigate this, at the request of the Department for Transport, some Thameslink services became faster trains and no longer call at Flitwick, Leagrave and Harpenden.This situation is intended to be rectified by December 2020 when East Midland Trains (run by Abellio from August 2019) should re-instate stops at Bedford and Luton, following completion of the Midland Mainline Upgrade plan.This means, in turn, that GTR can then re-instate the stops at Flitwick, Leagrave and Harpenden.
Thameslink have previously consulted on potential solutions including changes to services at St Albans, but these did not prove feasible.
Govia Thameslink Railway
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:
- Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
- Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
- Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
- Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria