As demand continues to soar on our railways we will be forced to make increasingly difficult choices about which stations are served and which are not.
There was more evidence of this problem this week in a news release from London TravelWatch which says it is alarmed by the new timetable introduced on the London – High Wycombe route last Sunday (May 13).
The independent passenger watchdog says it fears that passengers will suffer from some ‘quite drastic changes’ to the Chiltern Railways timetable.
In this case London TravelWatch says stopping services to High Wycombe have been revised so that the level of service at some stations such as Northolt Park and Seer Green & Jordans will be reduced to just one train an hour.
Sharon Grant, London TravelWatch chair, said the new timetable had been put in place to improve reliability.
“It does so at the expense of those passengers who rely on the half hourly stopping service to High Wycombe. One overcrowded train an hour is really not acceptable,” she said.
This is happening across our network as train operators struggle to cope with the competing pressures for faster, more frequent, long distance services whilst at the same time striving to maintain local service frequencies on a mixed use railway network with limited capacity.
Similar problems were experienced following the most recent £9bn upgrade of the West Coast Main Line, which saw the local station at Etruria close completely whilst other communities such as Wedgwood and Barlaston had their train services replaced by buses.
Even busy commuter stations such as Canley and Berkswell lost their regular 30 minute service to Birmingham and Coventry following the WCML upgrade, as local service frequencies were sacrificed to allow the introduction of one additional hourly Birmingham – London intercity service.
These are the stark choices that will face operators providing services on an increasingly crowded network.
This is why further upgrades to existing infrastructure (such as that proposed by 51m) will neither solve the long term capacity problems nor prevent the future downgrading of services at smaller main line stations serving local communities.
This is why we need HS2.