Monday, 25 June 2018

Campaigner welcomes new train timetable

A RAIL campaigner has welcomed a new timetable for the Henley branch line.

A RAIL campaigner has welcomed a new timetable for the Henley branch line.

But Neil Gunnell says the success of the service will depend on connections with London and Reading.

Great Western Railway plans to bring in half-hourly trains on the line from May next year instead of the current service every 45 minutes.

The new service would offer faster travel for residents of Henley, Shiplake and Twyford but could negatively affect those in Wargrave as the village would be missed out by alternate trains during off-peak, meaning it would have only an hourly service.

Mr Gunnell, of the Henley Trains action group, says the draft version of the timetable shows “progress”, although he would like to see improvements to the Wargrave service as soon as possible.

Mr Gunnell said: “The first proposed step would bring the economic benefit of half-hourly daytime off-peak service to most stops on the branch line but this is only possible with hourly daytime off-peak service in Wargrave.

“This is constrained by diesel timings and driver rest. The Wargrave service would drop by one train from the current 29 daily total.

“When electrification comes to the mainline, hopefully from the end of 2017, branch line frequency could improve in the peak hours for all stations, as a shuttle could be retained on the branch line in the morning, bringing Wargrave back to 29 services.

“We think it’s generally a good thing to incrementally bring more services on the branch line. It’s not perfect for Wargrave, which will lose one service a day, but hopefully by December next year it will be back to the same.”

Mr Gunnell said the effect of the timetable would become clearer when a new timetable for the main line between London and Bristol was released, showing how trains from the branch line will connect with services to major hubs.

He said: “The critical element of the timetables is efficiently-working connections. None of us has seen the mainline timetable so we don’t know about connections to London. We will continue to work with GWR to make sure the timetables provide practical and efficient connections.”

Wargrave passengers have criticised the timetable and Prime Minister Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead, says she is disappointed about the village’s services being reduced.

GWR has previously said its plans will benefit the majority of passengers who use the branch line and that additional services could be provided at Wargrave once the branch line is electrified, which may not be until 2018.

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