Loss of peak time train services to Bedford sparks new row

AThameslink train
AThameslink train

Crunch talks about cuts to rail services ended in disappointment on Monday, with the government’s response branded “not good enough”.

Rail minister Jo Johnson met with MPs Mohammad Yasin and Alistair Burt, and Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson to discuss the suspension of peak-time intercity services between Bedford and London.

But the group blasted Mr Johnson’s plans as inadequate.

Mr Yasin, who represents Bedford and Kempston, said: “Jo Jonhson said the loss of peak time services to Bedford was the most difficult problem he had inherited since becoming rail minister.

“If this is the case, he needs to focus on finding a solution for the people of Bedford who rely on these services.”

Mr Yasin said the government needed to have solutions in place now, rather than suggesting that they could be put in place at a future date.

He said: “Mr Johnson said he was in talks about introducing a ‘peak buster’ in December but this is not good enough.

“The government say they can’t offer a peak buster now because they don’t have the rolling stock –so they shouldn’t implement the changes until they do.”

Mayor Dave Hodgson pointed to wider issues for rail services in the area.

He said: “I had to point out that the minister’s website talks of ‘improving rail services’ for his constituents, while in Bedford we’re having to fight to stop the government reducing our services.

“I made Bedford Borough’s case on a range of rail issues including Wixams Station, East West Rail to Oxford and Cambridge, an upgraded Bedford station, and more.”

> Mid Beds MP Nadine Dorries also met with Jo Johnson recently over reductions in the number of rush hour trains calling at Flitwick, Harlington and Leagrave. The change will mean that Bedford passengers can get to London seven minutes quicker.

Ms Dorries said: “There is simply no doubt that this has been handled badly and I will continue to press for an explanation of what went wrong.”

Jason Hart, who described himself as a “long-suffering Ampthill commuter”, is leading the protest on behalf of Flitwick passengers.

He said: “I have heard that the rationale for the cuts is because East Midland trains will not stop at Bedford or Luton at peak times. Flitwick is suffering for this.”