Fresh call for return to pre-pandemic rail services after new timetable slammed as ‘very disappointing’

London Assembly member Joanne McCartney is demanding Great Northern restore the service it provided before March 2020, reports James Cracknell

A Great Northern train and (inset) Joanne McCartney
A Great Northern train and (inset) Joanne McCartney

Enfield’s representative at City Hall has slammed a railway company for failing to restore services to their pre-pandemic levels after describing its latest timetable change “very disappointing”.

Joanne McCartney – a Labour politician representing both Enfield and Haringey boroughs on the London Assembly – has long been calling for Great Northern to reintroduce the four-trains-per-hour off-peak service provided before 2020 along the Hertford Loop, but the rail firm has again ignored her pleas with its new summer timetable.

While there will be an improvement for passengers using Alexandra Palace Station, with services between King’s Cross and Cambridge now stopping there, there is no extra capacity provided for people using Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill, Grange Park, Enfield Chase, Gordon Hill or Crews Hill stations.

The only change for Hertford Loop passengers in the new timetable, which takes effect from Sunday, 21st May, is a rescheduling of services to provide evenly-spaced 15-minute waits for trains towards Moorgate at Alexandra Palace.

Speaking to the Dispatch today (9th) about the timetable announced last week by Great Northern, Joanne said: “We had four-trains-per-hour in the off-peak [before the pandemic] but we are now down to two-trains-per-hour and the new timetable does not increase capacity at all for services northwards of Alexandra Palace.

“I am very disappointed. This is my local train service and there is overcrowding during peak times, when there is standing room only, and off-peak there are just two-trains-per-hour.

“We are still at half the service we had prior to the pandemic.”

Joanne has also been campaigning for Great Northern’s services to be transferred to Transport for London’s control, to become part of the London Overground network. However, the government has recently blocked this move.

In the meantime, the Labour AM wants to see Great Northern restore pre-pandemic service levels. But in a letter to her explaining the decision, the rail franchise’s managing director Tom Moran wrote: “[We] need to ensure we match our level of service to demand, particularly given the ongoing loss-making status of our railway, which continues to be subsidised by the Department for Transport.”

Joanne said she recognises that demand for services is still lower than it was pre-pandemic, but warned: “Part of this is because the government will not fund extra capacity, but there is a danger of a vicious circle – if people think there is a poor service, they won’t use it.

“Passengers won’t come back if they think they can’t rely on it. This is a growing area and a world class city and we should be doing better than two-trains-per-hour.”

Commenting on the new timetable, Jenny Saunders, customer services director for Great Northern, said: “We’re pleased to be making these adjustments to provide more seats when and where more passengers need them.

“Changes are designed to make the best positive difference locally, and respond to requests and suggestions from our passengers. We recommend that all our customers check online journey planners for changes on their route before travelling in the week beginning 21st May.”

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