Update Thursday 21st June
Today, I requested an urgent call back from Rail Minister Jo Johnson to put forward my constituents’ concerns that things aren't improving fast enough and to enquire about why, in my opinion, progress on the interim timetable restructure has stalled.
The Minister immediately committed to follow up with GTR after our conversation and was extremely concerned to hear that my requests for timetable information has not yet been completed.
He acknowledged that within the entire timetable shake-up, Northern have seen their services improved more quickly than South Cambridgeshire’s Great Northern routes. He too was disappointed to see that progress on implementing an interim timetable seems to have stalled.
He explained that GTR have introduced a weekly timetable publication system, whereby their planned list of services which they anticipate will run the following week are published each Friday. Publication on a Friday evening was intended to give commuters more options to work from when planning their week ahead. In theory, this was supposed to be the first stage of the stabilisation effort before the full interim timetable is introduced in mid-July. I explained that this system is not working sufficiently for my commuters and that whilst it might be giving GTR manoeuvring space to carry out further planning, it is not delivering reliable enough rail services for South Cambs at the current time.
The Minister took on board my feedback, acknowledged that this was a first step and committed to delivering an interim timetable by mid-July that provides services that are somewhere in between the service we had before the timetable shake-up and the new ambitious timetable launched on 20th May. From mid-July to the end of the year services will slowly be reintroduced, on top of the interim offer, to provide more capacity on the network. The December timetable changes that were planned have been put on hold during this period of stabilisation.
With respect to these proposed timescales, I will schedule a meeting between myself, GTR and the Rail User Groups for the beginning of August, so that we can agree which services should be re-introduced as a priority.
I shared the alarm expressed by passengers who usually use our smaller commuter stations (such as Ashwell, Meldreth, Foxton and Shepreth), who feel the stations are becoming ‘cold-spots’ left behind in the timetable shake up. The Minister pledged to ensure that these services were placed firmly on GTR’s radar in the coming weeks.
I again laboured that my constituents are entitled to compensation levels at least equal to those of Southern last year and I reinforced my request for additional costs (such as increased parking costs, taxis etc.) to be considered for compensation approval.
The Minister immediately telephoned GTR following our conversation to follow up on my request for a weekly snapshot of services running. He is very aware of the difficulties that this continued disruption is causing South Cambs commuters. He was at pains to apologise for the breakdown in communication regarding my requests and committed to delivering this information to me shortly.