Britain Runs On Rail
In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity: A plan to change, invest and secure prosperity for Britain
Thousands of people use our trains every day to get to school, work or see friends. It’s because of the importance of rail to passengers, communities, our staff and the economy, we have partnered with the rail industry to deliver a plan to change, invest and secure prosperity for Britain.
As part of this plan we have committed to our four vows: to strengthen our contribution to the economy, freeing up taxpayer money; increase customer satisfaction; boost local communities through local decision making, investment and discounted travel for those who need it most; and give our employees and communities the opportunity of more jobs and a rewarding career in rail.
To find out more visit www.britainrunsonrail.com
Decision on Harpenden & Luton consultation
We would like to thank the thousands of passengers who responded to our consultation on Thameslink services to and from Luton and Harpenden stations between July and September 2019.
Our decision and what will happen next
Our final decision is to maintain the current timetable until December 2020. We could only provide extra services at Harpenden by removing them from Luton and the consultation has made very clear that doing so would cause real hardship to the passengers who currently rely on the Luton services.
We want to stress that we are not removing any services – Harpenden’s services will remain unchanged and no-one’s current journey will worsen because of this decision. And in December 2020, there will be 5 more fast trains than there are now between Harpenden and London for both the morning and evening peaks. In the meantime, Thameslink will continue to work tirelessly, with our partners at Network Rail, to improve our service for all customers by making our trains more punctual and reliable.
We know that this decision will disappoint some of our passengers who use Harpenden station. Any decision we make would leave some groups feeling their concerns have not been addressed and we would like to assure everyone that we have considered all responses to the consultation, and explored all options suggested, before reaching a final decision.
Background and current situation
This consultation has essentially been about the best and fairest way to serve our customers at Luton and Harpenden between now and December 2020. The current situation was caused by a delay to improvements to the Midland Mainline in November 2017, which meant East Midland Trains had to cease stopping at Bedford and Luton for a temporary period. This change took place in May 2018. In response to this, we made some of our services faster by removing stops at Leagrave, Flitwick and Harpenden.
Specifically, we changed some of our ‘fast’ services (those which run non-stop between St Albans and West Hampstead or St Pancras) between Harpenden and London in May 2018. This meant two fewer fast services at Harpenden in the morning (07:00-09:59) and evening (16:00-18:59) peak periods in May 2018 compared with the previous timetable introduced in December 2017.
Since May 2018 we have added one fast service in both the morning and evening peaks in response to feedback. Consequently, Harpenden currently has 17 fast services in the morning peak and 16 fast services in the evening peak, compared to Luton’s 21 (morning) and 22 (afternoon). From December 2020, we will be introducing five additional fast services to Harpenden in both the morning and evening peaks, bringing the total to 22 (morning) and 21 (afternoon). This will be possible as a result of East Midlands Railway reinstating their Bedford and Luton stops.
We are working very closely with the new East Midlands Railway franchise to make this happen by integrating our future timetable plans and allowing them to use our depot at Bedford Cauldwell to bring additional trains on to the network.
Harpenden passengers have made very clear to us that they do not think the current situation is fair, and that we should increase the number of fast services before December 2020. We took this request very seriously and through this consultation, we gave all passengers a chance to tell us their views and explain the impact any changes would have on their lives.
The consultation was about how we could best serve our customers at Harpenden and Luton stations and we made clear “the input we receive from you during this consultation will feed into our decision.” We have also been clear that this decision would take into account all feedback and be more than a simplistic comparison of the number of responses in favour of each option.
To get as much input as possible, we consulted passengers between July and September this year, not just through a dedicated website but also through paper surveys and six ‘Meet the Manager’ events, three each at Harpenden and Luton.
We received nearly 7000 responses in total and would like to thank local Rail User Groups, politicians and the media, all of whom publicised the consultation and encouraged people to respond.
We had very similar amounts of completed surveys from Luton (2681) and Harpenden (2732). In addition, a further 1534 did not complete the survey and simply listed a station, 415 listing Harpenden and 1119 listing Luton. Many respondents added comments to their survey responses, which has been very helpful. While most comments related to the morning and evening train services we identified, there were also plenty of comments about the overall reliability of our service as well as suggestions for other solutions.
As part of our commitment to transparency, we have shared the detail of the consultation responses with local politicians and stakeholders. One point came out particularly clearly – each of the morning and evening peak services we had identified for potential removal from Luton had a significant number of customers who built their daily lives around them and would not be able to do what they do now if that service was removed.
The number of respondents in this position (which will represent some, but not all, of those affected) ranged from 35 to 135 for the 5 morning services, and from 11 to 58 for the evening services. The most common reasons for this response were ‘job’, ‘childcare’ and ‘care’.