On Monday 4th September, campaigners from the Stevenage Labour Party and Hertford residents who set up the petition to stop the planned removal of the important Hertford – Stevenage rail link were outside the Stevenage Railway Station calling for the rail link to be saved. In addition, they were publicising the public meeting in Watton-at-Stone, scheduled to take place on the evening of 7th September, in Watton-at-Stone Primary and Nursery school at 7.30pm.
County Councillor Joshua Bennett Lovell (Old Stevenage) who was present at the Station and helped organise the campaign event said, “The plans make no long-term sense. Our local residents and people commuting into and through Stevenage depend on this rail-link. Removing it and replacing it with a bus service between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone stops cyclists from taking their bicycle on their trips, puts additional traffic on the busy A602 creating more congestion chaos at rush hour, increases pollution, and also makes access to important infrastructure such as the Lister Hospital far more difficult.”
“We need a solution that focuses on the needs of our residents, and our local environment. The local Labour Party strongly encourages Hertford, Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage residents to go along to the public consultation meeting and demand a change in this decision. The lack of joined-up thinking involved here is unfathomable; there are increased public-health risks and safety concerns with this rail link removal. We are calling on our Hertfordshire MPs and Govia Thameslink Railway to think again on the introduction of their 2018 timetable and keep this vital local link open.”
The change.org petition to stop the planned changes to Govia Thameslink Railway’s 2018 timetable has gathered over 2700 signatures online and can be found here: https://v.gd/Eb8jCC
The UK Government rejected an initial petition calling for this service to be retained as this was not considered within the remit of the Government’s control (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171337). This in itself was described by Councillor Bennett Lovell as “bewildering.” He said “The Government’s response demonstrates that they have handed over all control of our local railway transportation network to a private rail operating company who clearly, as this case has shown, do not have the concerns of our residents in mind. Nationally, Labour is calling for the re-introduction of a fully publicly owned and run railway network, which we fully support. Only by making our transport system publicly accountable can we control which routes and services are run, and ensure that the cost of these is reduced as much as possible for rail users.”
Stevenage Labour Party calls for the introduction of a 5th platform to be accelerated which will provide the infrastructure needed at our railway station to strengthen our local economy, improve the connectivity between Stevenage and the rest of the UK, and ensure that this important rail link can remain operational when needed by people in our town.