Saturday, 16 December 2017

Commuters claim new rail timetable is 'unworkable'

COMMUTERS in Wargrave have attacked a new rail timetable on the Henley branch line, claiming it is “unworkable”.

Great Western Railway is set to introduce a 30-minute shuttle on the line between Henley and Twyford in May.

This will offer faster travel for residents of Henley, Shiplake and Twyford as it will replace the existing service, which runs every 45 minutes, but Wargrave will be missed out by alternate trains during off-peak periods, meaning it will have only an hourly service.

GWR says the change will benefit the majority of passengers who use the line and the half-hourly services could be extended to Wargrave once electrification of the line is completed, which could be as late as 2019.

But residents of Wargrave have complained in writing to GWR managing director Mark Hopwood, saying they feel badly treated.

Austin and Felicity O’Malley, of Watermans Way, said: “When we moved to Wargrave three years ago one of the attractions of the village was the access by train to Paddington because we have reason to make the journey frequently. The proposal to reduce these services is therefore of real concern to us. It seems that we are losing out to benefit Henley users.

“The proposed changes do not seem to be based on any reasonable proposition that we know about.

“Neither can we imagine that it is within the scope of your franchise to inconvenience the people of Wargrave for the benefit of users further up the line.”

Will Rowson, of High Street, said commuters already had enough problems with the lack of seats on some services, being unable to buy tickets at Wargrave and connecting trains at Twyford station not being held.

He said: “Why don’t you please just concentrate on improving your overall service for branch line users?

“Improving the daily rubbish we have to put up with is far more important and will help 100 per cent of your branch line customers.

“You should witness the rush from the evening services over the bridge at Twyford due to the main line generally being late and the risk that the Henley service is not held.”

Janet Berman, of Henley Road, also raised the issue of connecting trains at Twyford.

She said: “The point that you do not seem to have addressed satisfactorily is that by changing from a 45-minute service to a 30-minute service, you will significantly reduce the turnaround time for the branch line train.

“In turn, this significantly reduces your scope for holding the train at Twyford for more than a few minutes.

“Are your staff prepared for the scenario where the branch line train cannot be held, so then a large number of commuters from Paddington unexpectedly has to wait an extra 30 minutes at Twyford?”

Philip Meadowcroft, who founded the Wargrave User Group last year, said: “Members strongly feel that Mark Hopwood and his team at GWR are sleepwalking into an unworkable timetable for the branch line for all users.

“Not only is there a material reduction in off-peak services to and from Wargrave, it is absolutely certain that passengers for Shiplake and Henley, as well as Wargrave, will find themselves spending much more time waiting at Twyford if their incoming mainline service is delayed, even by only a few minutes.

“This was not properly thought through by those who originally pressed GWR for the 30-minute shuttle prior to electrification.”

Wargrave Parish Council has also complained to GWR and earlier this year Maidenhead MP and Prime Minister Theresa May criticised the new timetable in a letter to Mr Hopwood.

She said: “It is very disappointing that GWR intends to press ahead with cuts to the off-peak services at Wargrave. It is not acceptable for my constituents in Wargrave to be disadvantaged so that passengers in Henley can get a faster service.”

GWR has said that with complex timetables, it cannot improve services for the majority of users without having an impact on some others.

A spokesman said: “We currently hold branch line services for a short period when required to allow connections to be made and will continue to do so.”

l What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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