Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Jeremy Mayhew, warned that planning problems could delay Thameslink 2000 indefinitely. He said that the only way to speed up the process would be for the government to introduce a special Transport Act to accelerate the planning process. Peter Lilley said: “I will raise this possibility with Ministers”.

    Jeremy Mayhew told local business people about the steps that the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) was taking to prevent the huge delays and cost overruns which have marred other major rail projects. Previously construction teams took ‘possession‘ of a line over night or at weekends and much of their time was wasted moving equipment onto and off the line. Now the SRA is authorising them to take ‘possession‘ of the track for an extended period to complete a task in one go. and doing away with this piecemeal approach, the repair process will become more streamlined. Peter Lilley said: “As a result of this new approach, when Thameslink 2000 finally gets the planning go-ahead, there will be a single period of closure of a section of the line. I hope this will be kept as brief as possible with efficient coach links provided. But I accept that this will be less disruptive and costly than unpredictable and intermittent interruptions spread over several years.”

    In response to questions about the continued use of four coach trains on both the Hitchin and Thameslink lines, Jeremy Mayhew explained that “the SRA is now specifying in its contracts with the railway operating companies the detailed services they will provide. So in future if the contract specifies that the operator will run a certain number of trains of a given length at peak periods they will be liable to a fine if they fail to do so. This should mean fewer inadequate trains in future.”

    Jeremy Mayhew, whose rail journey to Harpenden was interrupted by a signals failure so that he was forced to take a bus from St Albans, commented wryly that he appreciated why transport issues were so important to the residents of Hitchin and Harpenden!