© 2017 The Harpenden Society
‘We’ll believe it when we see it’ could be the reaction of many Harpenden rail passengers to the projected service improvements announced by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) in September.
The full benefits, in any case, are not due to be felt for another year and a half. Cross-London services through London Bridge Station are not due to restart until May 2018.
‘New trains will provide additional capacity’, says GTR, while ‘modern track will make your journeys more reliable’. It declares that ‘key service changes’ by the end of (not May) 2018 will include improved Monday-to-Friday peak-time frequency. Eight ‘up’ trains per hour will serve Harpenden starting from Bedford and four from Luton.
Together with more 12-carriage – in place of eight-carriage – trains, it will mean 3000 extra seats into St Pancras, doubling capacity in the morning peak, implying a better chance of Harpenden commuters getting a seat.
There is an opportunity for GTR service users to comment on the proposals at
While the Harpenden Society naturally welcomes GTR’s plans, it is hoped that they turn out to be more than aspirations. Recent experience of repeated rush-hour service cancellations, causing commuters into London to arrive late for work three times in one week is not encouraging, to put it mildly. In the words of a recent Herts Advertiser editorial, ‘Oh Thameslink, will it forever be jam tomorrow?’
Those without cars, notably the elderly, living on the outskirts of Harpenden, as well as drivers daunted by ever more nightmarish parking problems in the town centre, are sure to welcome the arrival of the Harpenden Hopper. As a new ‘hop on, hop off’ community bus service, it is scheduled to begin in January as a 12-month pilot project, initially linking residential areas to the north-west of the town with the High Street shopping area and nearby surgeries.
Initiative for the project – being run via a newly-established charity called Harpenden Connect – has been led by Andy Buchanan and Simon George, two local residents who recognised the need for such a service, especially following the withdrawal two or three years ago of the Grant Palmer minibus operation which served a similar area of the town.
Harpenden Connect has local authority support, notably from the town’s two county councillors David Williams and Teresa Heritage, and town mayor Nicola Linacre. It is hoped also to attract funding by way of ‘sponsorship’ from retailers who stand to benefit from additional ‘footfall’ when the service is up and running.
At the Harpenden Hopper launch event in late September, Andy Buchanan explained that ‘route approval’ from the area Traffic Commissioners for the start-up service had been obtained, though other legislative formalities had to be completed before start-up.
Two second-hand (ex Herts CC) but smartly refurbished 15-seat Mercedes minibuses have been acquired, though initially one will be a stand-by vehicle. They will be based at the YWAM site in Ambrose Lane.
That initial route will run between Kinsbourne Green (near The Fox) and the town centre via The Close, Shepherds Way, Tuffnells Way, Wood End Road, Roundwood Lane, Park Rise, Park Hill, Luton Road, Hollybush Lane, Clarence Road, Byron Road, Wordsworth Road, Townsend Road, Luton Road, Sun Lane, Carlton Road (Red House), Stewart Road (Elms Surgery), Breadcroft Lane, Cornwall Road, Devonshire Road, Station Road, Victoria Road, Bowers Way (Davenport House), High Street, Amenbury Lane (Village Surgery), Avenue St Nicholas and Rothamsted Avenue.
There will be specific pick-up points, but the bus can be hailed anywhere along the route. A flat fare of £2.00 is anticipated although bus passes will be valid. The plan is for the service to operate three days a week, from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
At the launch event an appeal was made for volunteer drivers. Anyone willing to offer their services can contact Harpenden Hopper at email@example.com or telephone 01582 638007.