Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, yesterday called on the Transport Secretary to confirm that the Thameslink 2000 project has been deferred indefinitely. He also urged the government?s Strategic Rail Authority to press ahead with improvements to rail services between Hitchin and Harpenden and London. This follows recent reports that it may severely downgrade the Thameslink 2000 project owing to growing costs and planning problems. The latest rail performance figures for Thameslink and West Anglia Great Northern (WAGN) also reveal much room for improvement in train service punctuality.

    Peter Lilley said:

    “Commuters from Hitchin and Harpenden will be infuriated to hear that the Strategic Rail Authority may downgrade Thameslink 2000 along with other high profile rail schemes. They announced in September that the project had been delayed due to planning issues, but now we discover that the SRA cannot afford to start major projects announced in its Ten year Strategic Plan earlier this year. It turns out that the Ten Year Plan has not even lasted ten months.

    “The future of Thameslink 2000 now looks incredibly bleak. Yesterday in Parliament I asked the Transport Secretary when passengers travelling between Hitchin and Harpenden and London would see improvements that alleviate congestion and overcrowding. He failed to make any commitment to improving services in the short or medium term.

    Running 10 or 12 carriage trains instead of 8 carriages would greatly ease congestion my constituents face. But I also learned that WAGN now has no plans to run longer trains on the Great Northern line between Hitchin and London for the foreseeable future. When WAGN?s franchise comes up for renewal in 2004, I shall urge the SRA and the rail companies involved in the new franchise to make a commitment to lengthening platforms and trains between Hitchin and London.

    “The latest rail performance figures for both routes into London still leave a lot to be desired. Between July and September this year, 24 out of every 100 Thameslink trains and 17 out of every 100 WAGN trains arrived more than 5 minutes late. Punctuality on the railways has deteriorated severely since Labour came to power in 1997. Only 10 out of every 100 trains in London and the South East, which includes Thameslink and WAGN, were more than five minutes late in 1997-8.?