Welwyn Hatfield Council leader writes to Transport Secretary over Great Northern 'chaos'

PUBLISHED: 13:43 11 June 2018 | UPDATED: 13:43 11 June 2018

Council leader Mandy Perkins. Picture: WHC

Council leader Mandy Perkins. Picture: WHC

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Welwyn Hatfield Council's leader has written to the Transport Secretary and ripped into the "chaos" caused by Govia Thameslink's new timetable.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Picture: Chris McAndrew. Licence available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Picture: Chris McAndrew. Licence available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Great Northern train schedule – unveiled last month – has been blighted by a string of cancellations and delays due to a shortage of drivers and mix-up with Network Rail.

Conservative leader Mandy Perkins has opened fire on behalf of the council, telling MP Chris Grayling that the “intolerable” situation must be rectified.

In the letter, included in full on our Letters Page, Cllr Perkins said: “As is widely known, GTR [Govia Thameslink Railway] has let these residents and businesses down badly.

“People have wasted totally unacceptable amounts of time getting to work, if they have been able to get there at all.

“Employers have lost many thousands of hours of resource at huge cost to them, and the local economy has suffered a big blow at a time when we are all working hard to strengthen it.”

She points out that thousands of residents rely daily on the trains – which serve six Welwyn Hatfield stations – and said it is hampering efforts being made to boost the local area.

The council leader also called for appropriate compensation for residents, assurances that the “unacceptable” service will be sorted, and for the new timetable to be reconsidered.

“As a council we made representations during the consultation period which set out our objections to the proposed changes,” she said.

“These will see a reduction in the number of fast trains in and out of the borough – what we need is an increase in suitable rail transport, not a reduction.”

A Govia spokesman said the company “apologises sincerely” for the disruption, adding it is working with industry colleagues to re-plan how trains and crew are deployed during a temporary timetable in July.

It has also removed around 230 services from its timetable to ensure fewer cancellations, and added extra buses to cover gaps.

Chris Grayling said it is his priority to address the “totally unacceptable” service and ensure commuters are compensated.

He added there will be an independent inquiry into “how this went so badly wrong” to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“I will also investigate whether GTR have breached their contract and won’t hesitate to take tough action if they are found negligent,” he said.

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