Message sent from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)

As you may be aware, on the 17 May 2020, the UK rail industry will introduce a new timetable. The timetable restores some additional train services with earlier start and later finish times, adds more cross-London Thameslink services and increases frequencies across the network to create more space for customers on-board. The focus is on increasing space for those who must use public transport, safely and reliably, to support social distancing.

A wider briefing on the timetable is attached for your reference. As one element to highlight, work is continuing at Stevenage to construct a new fifth platform, along with around 2 kilometres of the new track, overhead electric line and signalling infrastructure on the route towards Hertford North. Before the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated limitations, the project was on target to open the new platform to train services as part of the timetable change. With the pandemic impacting on delivery of the project it is now unfortunately likely to be late Summer 2020 before it is completed.

The worksite currently has a limit of a maximum of 50 people at any one time – a significant reduction as up to 100 were on site prior to the restrictions – which is impacting on the amount of progress our partners at Network Rail can make. All work associated with the project is being carefully reviewed and only delivered when it is safe to do so.

This does unfortunately mean that with an increase in train services across the network, notably Thameslink services at Stevenage station, we will need to reinstate the rail replacement bus service operating between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone / Hertford North on a Monday to Saturday basis from Monday 18 May 2020. This is because the path used into Stevenage station is not available until the new platform is ready. As under the previous Monday-Friday arrangements, we will operate two direct bus routes; between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone and between Stevenage and Hertford North. Train services will operate on Sundays.

The numbers of passengers using the route remain very light and we will operate full size buses to support social distancing. We are reinstating passenger communications to ensure that those using the route under the current guidance are aware of the change.

We are developing a revised plan for the new platform and turnback to enter into service as soon as possible this Summer. This includes reviewing non-essential work that could be finished after the platform opens. Our team is focused on identifying the quickest route to opening the platform and turnback while ensuring safety is not compromised. Great Northern Class 717 trains will then use Platform 5 as soon as it enters into service, restoring the 7 days a week train service.

We recognise that this delay will be disappointing news for passengers between Hertford North, Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage who have shown a lot of patience whilst we build the new capacity for train services to be reintroduced.

We are working to complete this important project as quickly as we can. As always, if you have any questions, please let us know.