12th February 2019

It is vital that we are able to provide a good and consistent service for passengers using the Thameslink service to and from London for work. We have seen years of disruption and commuters are pushed to breaking point far too often. Especially during the chaos of the introduction of the May timetable last year. We cannot have a repeat of that.

I have huge sympathy for Harpenden commuters. The impact of the suspension of EMT trains between Bedford, Luton and London on commuters there has been immense. We have to appreciate that regular rail service between commuter areas like St Albans and Harpenden into London is fundamental to the lives of thousands and thousands of people. People have to be provided with a service they can rely on and that does not mean passengers crammed into dangerous and incredibly uncomfortable conditions ever morning to just get to and from work, and pay thousands of pounds for the privilege.

But I have to be clear on this, any reduction of services from St Albans to accommodate Harpenden is completely unacceptable. The solution for helping Harpenden commuters is not to make matters worse for others. I think it is extremely unfortunate that we are in this position. We are essentially debating proposals that pit one community against another.

We can see clearly from recent review work carried out by GTR, and from countless reviews published over the years – St Albans passenger footfall is enormous. The load data demonstrates the huge volume of passengers getting on at St Albans. It is hard to fathom how any way forward now would be to reduce stops at a station as busy as St Albans.

I have been campaigning for more trains that provide a better service for St Albans commuters for years and I had high hopes for the May 2018 timetable. More trains at peak times would spread the density of passengers per train and hopefully provide for a more reliable and pleasant service. As we all know, this didn’t go to plan but we are starting to see the service level out and the additional trains at peak times is a step forward. There is an ever growing demand for trains and we must look to meet that growth over the coming years.

At this moment in time though, I am absolutely opposed to any removal of services from St Albans. I appreciate how tough this has been for Harpenden commuters but I do not support inflicting misery on my constituents when they are already getting the minimum of what they should expect for the prices they pay.

If there is anything that can be done to speed up the return of EMT trains then I completely support that. Failing that, if there is any possibility that additional trains to serve Harpenden without impacting on St Albans can be delivered then that too has my full support. Harming commuters from other areas, especially one as busy as St Albans, to prop up Harpenden is not the answer. We need to find a solution that improves Harpenden without taking away from other areas.

Anne Main MP


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