A new timetable for Great Northern services, which run through Arlesey, Letchworth and Hitchin, comes into effect on 20 May and is set to improve our connections through London as well as providing a direct link to Gatwick Airport and on down to the south coast. Hello Brighton beach! But how will your everyday journeys be affected?


Early birds well served

For weekday commuters who like to get in early, the first train to London is faster (40 minutes compared to 52) and arrives earlier, getting you into King’s Cross at 4.51 if you’re travelling from Arlesey or Hitchin. If you travel from Letchworth to stations between Stevenage and Finsbury Park, the first train leaves at 4.56, getting you to your desk about half an hour earlier than the previous first train. Cambridge commuters can also start half an hour earlier, with the first train arriving at 6.14. 


More regular fast trains

There is also good news for those commuters who aren’t quite so early: fast trains are more frequent throughout rush hour (and indeed continuing at the same frequency through the whole day), with two every hour in each direction on the Peterborough (Arlesey) line and one an hour on the Cambridge (Letchworth) line – set to rise to two from December. Commuters from Hitchin benefit from all three (four). 


More destinations

Most of the fast trains in the new timetable are the ones that run through London: Peterborough trains go on to Horsham and Cambridge ones go to Brighton. Both lines offer access to Finsbury Park, St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge; they serve different stations south of London but both will take you to East Croydon or Gatwick Airport. Note the important omission for the way back: they do not stop at King’s Cross. If you travel back from that part of London you’ll need to use St Pancras almost all of the time. Only the local services (most of which are ‘all stations’) will still be operating through King’s Coss, except at the very beginning and end of the day. There are a couple of anomalies, so do check before you travel.


Fast trains a little slower

Journey time to St Pancras, at best 34 minutes from Hitchin, is a few minutes longer than the current 31 minutes to King’s Cross, but for some people that will be mitigated by the fact that they don’t have to change trains to get to another part of London. 


Some services less frequent

Anyone who currently travels on a fast train to London from Letchworth might be a little worse off. Instead of 5.39, 7.09, 8.30, 8.39, 9.15 , 9.45 and 10.15, there are now just three of these, at 6.04, 8.34 and 9.08, and they serve King’s Cross only – no stop at Finsbury Park. You can, however, pick up the Brighton train in Letchworth, at 21 mintues past the hour (starting at 5.21), which does stop at Finsbury Park and will get you there in 31 minutes. The same applies in reverse to those using these services to travel to Cambridge: fewer direct trains, but the added opportunity to pick up the long-distance service which is almost as fast.

Depending on where you travel to and at what time of day, you may find that local trains are less frequent or run at slightly different times to usual: the various ‘semi-fasts’ from the old timetable have been dropped and if your stations are not served by the long-distance trains (eg Welwyn Garden City) then you will be restricted to two ‘all stations’ services an hour in each direction between Cambridge and King’s Cross.


For details of weekend services and more specific information about the trains you will need to use for your commute, visit http://www.railplan2020.com.