Tuesday, 27 June 2017

New rail timetable 'will affect reliability'

RAIL passengers from Wargrave say a new timetable on the Henley branch line will put reliability at risk.

The Great Western Railway timetable came into effect on May 21 with a half-hourly off-peak service replacing the previous 45-minute shuttle service.

This offers faster travel for residents of Henley, Shiplake and Twyford but it also means Wargrave has only an hourly service during off-peak times.

Rail campaigners in Henley have said it will be “good for business”.

But the Wargrave User Group, which has campaigned against the timetable, says evidence from the first week of rescheduled services suggests there will be problems with connections between the branch line and mainline trains at Twyford station.

Philip Meadowcroft, who founded the group, said he monitored the 5.06pm service from Paddington to Twyford on Thursday last week, which arrives at Twyford three minutes before the onward service on the branch line.

He said: “It took two-and-a-half minutes exactly for all the connecting passengers to get over the bridge and on to the Henley-bound shuttle. That was probably typical.

“The awkward news was that the 5.06pm train was three minutes late arriving, so the Henley-bound shuttle was held up and left two-and-a-half minutes late.

“GWR is prepared to delay this shuttle by up to four minutes, which means that the 5.06pm has to be no more than four-and-a-half minutes late. Regular passengers will know that this is a tall order for GWR whose punctuality is so unreliable for whatever cause.”

Mr Meadowcroft said the 5.31pm shuttle had to be back at Twyford by 5.58pm at the latest to allow a direct train from Paddington to Henley access to the branch line but on the same day this service was delayed by 20 minutes, meaning the branch line did not operate on time for two hours.

He said: “The 30-minute shuttle timetable which GWR has concocted lacks an ability to cope with the reality of GWR’s habitual unpunctuality. We have pressed this vigorously with Mark Hopwood, GWR’s managing director and so has our MP, Theresa May.

“Mr Hopwood is determined to implement his new timetable while at the same time admitting its success is based on GWR upping its game and improving its punctuality.”

Mr Meadowcroft said there were also delays on two early morning through services to London Paddington on Wednesday and Thursday last week with the disruption leading to a “complete lottery” on which branch line services stopped at Wargrave.

GWR says the new timetable will benefit the majority of passengers using the line and any services lost during the day will be replaced by extra trains in the evenings.

It has also said the half-hourly service would be expanded to the whole line when the track is electrified but this project was deferred indefinitely in November.

GWR is also planning to scrap through trains to London in December, meaning all passengers will have to change at Twyford.

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