Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire on Thursday met with new GTR CEO, Patrick Verwer to gain answers for commuters on issues related to the introduction of the May and interim 15th July timetables.
Mrs Allen established a frank, open and robust dialogue with Mr Verwer highlighting the very significant impact that his train company’s difficulties had made upon constituent’s lives. Mr Verwer listened and was open to feedback throughout.
During the meeting, Heidi presented Mr Verwer with a detailed analysis of GTR’s performance. She also referenced the figures she had referred to in her recent letter to the DfT demanding a fare freeze. Heidi detailed the human impact of these statistics to Mr Verwer in a hard-hitting exchange in which she cited examples of people resigning from their posts; rescheduling exams; missing children’s first experiences at school and nursery as well as more distressing cases of commuters being taken ill on over-crowded, over-heated trains.
Mr Verwer said he was determined to implement a series of improvements to give commuters the service that was promised on 20th May, explaining that complex preparation behind the scenes has been one of his priorities since he took up post.
Heidi challenged Mr Verwer to provide evidence of the company’s learnings from the debacle and quizzed him on GTR’s readiness for the next set of timetable introductions in October. She was pleased to hear and see evidence that GTR have undertaken extensive preparations to ensure that passengers are not further let down by short staffing or rolling stock issues. Stabilisation of the interim timetable in advance of new introductions was highlighted as a target for the coming weeks.
During the discussion, Mr Verwer was at pains to stress that he had been listening to commuters and staff concerns and was taking this feedback on board at the highest levels. He assured Heidi that the phased introductions would bring improvements in capacity, reliability and frequency for South Cambs commuters.
Points related to every station used by Heidi’s constituents were made including Royston, Ashwell and Morden, Foxton, Shepreth, Meldreth and St Neots. Heidi specifically wanted reassurance that the smaller stations, whose timetables were decimated during the interim relaunch, were a priority.
They also discussed Heidi’s desire to see parking compensation for commuters who have been unable to use Meldreth, Foxton and Shepreth as a result of cancellations.
Heidi said “This was a positive meeting and I am pleased Patrick recognised the need to stabilise and improve services urgently. I will ensure our continued dialogue helps to keep commuters informed and provides GTR with feedback from users on the ground. We must keep the impetus going for improvements for the benefit of commuters and GTR staff, both of whom have endured a turbulent summer. Patrick told me he is determined to deliver the benefits of the new timetable to commuters and I look forward to seeing the impact of this in the run up to Christmas.”