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New railway watchdog aims to improve service
Published 27/05/14

COMMUTERS in Henley have formed a rail users’ group.

They met at the Hot Gossip café in Friday Street last Wednesday to explore a new vision for the Henley-to-Twyford branch line.

The group will meet monthly to draw up proposals relating to service delivery levels and overcrowding, electrification and its impact on the branch line, scheduling and timetabling, the impact of Crossrail, fares, revenue and station parking and the feasibility of a cycle path along the line between Henley and Shiplake.

It will then look to liaise with First Great Western and Network Rail in the run up to the train company franchise renewal in 2015.

Town councillor Will Hamilton, who is leading the group, said: “Service levels on the branch line have been unsatisfactory, connections missed, and commuters on several peak services are often being left stranded at Twyford station due to poor service delivery.

“Overcrowding continues to be a problem as rolling stock issues prevent the rail operator operating a full length of carriages. The Henley branch line has been overlooked for too long. Service delivery is key and communications with First Great Western radically need to be improved.”

The group was founded following a public meeting in April, chaired by Henley MP John Howell, between commuters and Mark Hopwood, managing director of First Great Western.

Mr Hopwood pledged to tackle overcrowding and service delays and admitted that the 6.05pm service from Paddington had a “chequered” past. He will meet with the user group at a public meeting in July.

Will Hall, a group member who also sits on South Oxfordshire District Council, said he would like to see an early train to Paddington introduced on a Sunday morning and a late train that allows you to attend a West End show or concert in London and return by a train that connects.

Mr Howell said: “I’m very pleased this group has formed and is positively looking for better solutions. In the run-up to franchise renewal in 2015 now is the time to ensure what goes in the franchise agreement is and can be delivered.”

A spokesman for First Great Western said: “We recognise that punctuality, reliability and capacity are key concerns for our passengers and we welcome the opportunity to work with rail user groups. Since 2011 we have provided more than 4,500 extra peak time seats on services into and out of the capital.”

The group is looking for representatives from Shiplake and Wargrave. Email henleybranchuser group@gmail.com

• The 6.05pm Paddington-to-Frome service was delayed by 20 minutes on Monday due to a brake fault. As a result, commuters missed a connection to Henley at Twyford.

Published 27/05/14

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