Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

Half-hourly train services to be augmented in May

by Susan van de Ven on 12 April, 2022

This announcement from Govia Thameslink was received by the Meldreth Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership yesterday:

Update on Southern, Great Northern and Thameslink services – Train times will change from 15 May 2022
Good afternoon  I am writing to update you on the Summer timetable change on Sunday 15 May 2022. Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern will be running more weekday trains in its summer timetable, targeted mostly on commuters returning to the workplace.  

Over the past two years we have made over a dozen timetable changes – your input and feedback as a stakeholder has been essential each time to support us to meet our customers’ needs. We are now looking towards the future, establishing a new base timetable to take us into a more stable period of fewer timetable changes that better meets the current demand for services and the resources we have available. 

The timetable we are introducing in May will develop in the years ahead as demand and travel patterns continue to evolve alongside customer needs. 

Our customer numbers have now stabilised at approximately 65 to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic, with notable differences between days of the week and times of day. We are now seeing commuter passenger volumes and travel trends similar to those seen last Autumn, following the easing of working from home advice.   

Trends suggest that people will continue to work from home more regularly in the future. The railway therefore needs to adapt to lower passenger numbers and the impact of reduced commuting on the industry’s finances, while at the same time, encouraging passengers to return when they are ready. 

This is a difficult balance to strike. As with all of our timetables, we are prioritising our available resources to support as many customers as we possibly can – safeguarding key services such as those for schools and rural communities with limited public transport alternatives, meeting demand for commuting and leisure, and then supporting the largest off-peak service that we can. 

As a result, the May timetable increases weekday services across the network where there is significant passenger demand, with many routes increasing in frequency. It will also see the introduction of cross-London Thameslink services between Sevenoaks and Welwyn Garden City for the first time, preparing the London area for the opening of the Elizabeth Line. 

The timetable also makes other important changes to reflect the change in travel demand. The Class 455 train on the Southern Metro are over 40 years old and will be replaced with the younger Class 377 electrostar fleet. Currently undergoing a £55m upgrade, the more modern trains will provide passengers with a more comfortable onboard experience including accessible toilets, air conditioning, improved lighting and the more popular 2X2 seating layout. 

Regrettably, as fewer people are regularly commuting we have had to make some difficult choices.

 As a result, we have made changes to our Saturday services to two short distance routes in the inner-London area and two in the Brighton area where there is overlap with other services. We have focused these changes to ensure that we maintain a minimum of half-hourly frequencies and increased the length of trains where needed, but we recognise changes like these are a disappointment. We will keep a watching brief and continue to work with stakeholders and partners to monitor, evaluate and adjust the future timetables according to demand levels. 

While the effects of the pandemic remain with us, this timetable is a starting point to begin rebuilding the railway following the disruption of the past two years. The new timetable from Sunday 15 May 2022 is part of this change. As customers return to rail in the years ahead and the time is right, we want to see more services added in, so we can build a thriving railway, meeting the needs of our customers.   

Customers can plan their journeys at www.nationalrail.co.uk As always, if you have any questions, please let us know.
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