© 2017 The Harpenden Society
As yet there are no early solutions in sight for Harpenden’s intractable car parking problems. That became evident at the Transport Forum meeting in March hosted by county councillors David Williams and Teresa Heritage, where parking loomed large as a key issue for the town.
Cllr Williams said that resurrection of an earlier tentative scheme – rejected on aesthetic grounds by SADC planners – to construct an elevated second deck above the east car park at Harpenden Station, which would effectively double its capacity, had hit a new stumbling block. It was essentially a funding issue, involving Network Rail and Govia Thameslink.
Meanwhile, proposals for new restrictions on street parking, notably in the ‘Avenues’ area, had been put on hold. It had been recognised that many early-morning ‘street parkers’ in that part of the town were not commuters heading for the station, but modestly-paid Harpenden retailer employees, for whom car parking charges could be punitive.
Rail travel from Harpenden was also reviewed at the March Forum. Larry Heyman of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) spelled out changes in the pipeline for passengers travelling from Harpenden Station. Following evidently successful trials by Transport for London, it was proposed to reduce the times outside rush hours when the ticket office was manned, though not until improved machines and electronic ‘contactless’ ticketing were available.
On Monday to Friday mornings it would be open from 6.00 to 10.30; outside those hours, from 5.00 through to 23.00, one or more free-ranging station ‘hosts’ would be on duty, on the platforms or concourse. Their role would be to issue tickets and, in addition, to help passengers use the automatic ticket machines and to provide rail travel information. On Saturdays the ticket office would be manned from 6.15 to 19.15 and with hosts on duty from 6.00 to 23.00; on Sundays those hours would be 7.15 to 20.15 and 7.00 to 23.00 respectively.
Mr Heyman apologised for current shortcomings in the Govia Thameslink service, attributable in large part to the major works in progress at London Bridge Station, which would continue until the Thameslink through service from Bedford to Brighton was restored in 2018. Route diversions and speed limits south of Blackfriars also caused delays.
A new local hail-and-ride bus service, operating under the name Harpenden Hopper is due to begin operations in September. It will enable the elderly and those without cars living on the outskirts of the town to get to the shops, as well as for example to doctors’ surgeries, more readily. Venture partners Andy Buchanan and Simon George outlined their plans at the Transport Forum.
They have two 17-seat minibuses being liveried in distinctive green colours. Six or seven volunteer drivers were also ‘raring to go’, said Mr Buchanan, adding that the necessary licensing and insurance formalities required for a public bus service were determining the progress of the plans.
Some public funding for the service was expected though it is hoped to augment that with sponsorship from local businesses, necessarily motivated by a degree of self-interest in generating custom from users of the service. A flat fare of £2 was proposed, though with senior citizen bus passes accepted.
Timetables and route details had yet to be finalised, but a two-hourly service, from 9.30 to 16.30 was envisaged, probably following one or more figure-of-eight routes, extending out to areas such as Roundwood which were presently poorly served by mainstream bus services.
It was acknowledge by the county councillors chairing the Forum that the condition of Harpenden’s roads left a lot to be desired. Cllr Williams (above) reminded those present that remedial work to potholes and streelights was dependent on members of the public reporting such faults, which could be done on the Herts County Council website. He added that inefficient road sweeping was frequently caused by the obstruction of parked cars.
In recognition of their energetic work behind the scenes at the Harpenden Society, ‘Without Whom’ presentations were made by president Alison Steer at the AGM to two long-serving and stalwart members of the committee. They were Bob Fletcher,(below left) the society’s hard-working secretary for the past four years, who crucially also manages the website so ably, and Eric Midwinter, (below centre)retiring after five years as editor of the society’s newsletter and as its watchdog on education and leisure issues.
Following those presentations, treasurer Harry Downie (below right) provided a summary of the society’s finances, which were pronounced to be essentially healthy, thanks to a growing membership – now approaching the one thousand mark.