A station campaign group has said commuters are “driving into Stevenage” to catch fast trains to London.

Great Northern and Thameslink used to run limited-stop trains from Knebworth into Finsbury Park and King’s Cross.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Govia Thameslink Railway slimmed down its timetable with stopping services only in the Hertfordshire village.

With passenger train mileage still lagging behind pre-Covid figures, “Bring Back the Fast Trains” campaigners have said it is time to restore a full service along the East Coast Main Line.

“It’s critical for Knebworth to have a fast connection to London as many people who live here need to work in London every day,” a campaign spokesperson said.

“Extra time on the train is time away from useful activities and spending time with family.

“Many people in Knebworth are now driving to Stevenage to catch the fast service from there – not good for the environment!

“If service is down on pre-Covid levels, it’s presumably because the service is not as good.”

Knebworth is just over 25 miles – roughly 40 kilometres – from London King’s Cross by train.

According to Office of Rail and Road (ORR) statistics published on Thursday, August 3, Govia Thameslink Railway covered 54.7million kilometres with their passenger revenue-earning trains in 2022/23.

This distance would be the same as going to the moon and back 71 times.

But it’s only 79.2 per cent of the company’s passenger train kilometres in 2019/20 pre-pandemic.

In that period, the company – which runs the Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express brands – travelled 69.1m km with passenger revenue-earning trains – the moon and back almost 90 times.

The number of passenger journeys was also down – 250.4million journeys in 2022/23 compared with 348.9m in 2019/20.

A Thameslink spokesperson said: “Our long-term strategy is to identify areas of potential or natural growth in passenger numbers, seize on the opportunities stage by stage, and make investment cases for additional services.

“So far this has worked well.

“For example, in May this year we added several services, altering the lengths of some routes and trains to enable the improvements, which have proved very popular with customers.

“We’re applying this phased approach around the network, and there are several improvement proposals planned for the future.”

A Change.org petition titled “Bring back the fast trains in Hertfordshire” has garnered more than 840 signatures.

Despite a drop in passenger journeys and mileage, Govia Thameslink Railway remains the best used rail firm in the country.

Its 250.4m passenger journeys was more than the Elizabeth Line (204.3m), London Overground (157.1m) and South Western Railway (138.4m).

And its 54.7m passenger train kilometres was more than Northern Trains (44.4m), Great Western Railway (42.5m) and ScotRail (38.8m).

Some companies have seen stronger recovery, with LNER running at 110.38 per cent of its pre-pandemic passenger journeys (23.4m in 2022/23 compared with 21.2m in 2019/20), and East Midlands Railway at 100.39 per cent (25.5m compared with 25.4m).