Thursday, 19 July 2018

Council supports fight against cut in village trains

A RAIL campaigner has urged Wargrave Parish Council to protest at proposed changes to the timetable

A RAIL campaigner has urged Wargrave Parish Council to protest at proposed changes to the timetable that will mean fewer trains call at the village station.

Great Western Railway plans to introduce a half-hourly shuttle on the Henley branch line from May to replace the existing service, which runs every 45 minutes.

The new service would offer faster travel for residents of Henley, Shiplake and Twyford but Wargrave would be missed out by alternate trains during off-peak hours, resulting in only an hourly service.

GWR says the changes 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.

But Philip Meadowcroft, founder of the Wargrave Branch Users Group, who has seen a draft of the new timetable, says rail travellers from the village will be disadvantaged.

He says Wargrave will have only five services instead of seven in each direction between 10.30am and 3.30pm on weekdays.

He is also concerned that the turnaround times at Twyford will not permit “holding” time for branch line services, resulting in missed connections on main line services.

Speaking at a meeting of the parish council, Mr Meadowcroft said: “The key element is the proposed  30-minute shuttle, which has all the expected and unacceptable deficiencies which WUG has previously and repeatedly pointed out.

“GWR remains silent on confirming that Wargrave services will be fully restored when electrification of the branch line is completed.

“The proposed timetable is unnecessarily harmful to Wargrave’s best interests and could mark the start of a progressive deterioration in Wargrave services with its consequent impact on our community and the attractiveness of Wargrave as a place for working families to grow up and prosper.

“The present timetable is not broken, so why seek to mend it and botch it so comprehensively in the process?”

Mr Meadowcroft, who lives in Watermans Way, asked the council to write to GWR in support of his group to which members agreed.

Chairman Richard Bush said: “We have always supported what you are doing.”

Mr Meadowcroft also criticised GWR over a recent replacement bus service that left passengers stranded in Wargrave.

The company closed the relief lines on the branch line for engineering work on Sunday, September 4, meaning trains could not reach Wargrave.

The line was instead served by three buses from Twyford station, which were meant to stop in High Street.

However, by 6pm no buses had arrived in the village and Mr Meadowcroft was forced to drive to Twyford, where he found the buses.

He said: “Two of them were adjacent to the forecourt but their drivers were worried about the whereabouts of the third coach.

“They rang the driver who insisted he was at Twyford and indeed he was but he had decided to operate from the lay-by on the Hurst Road side of the station out of sight from the other two drivers.

“We had three huge coaches at Twyford not knowing what to do. That’s an absolute farce.”

GWR said the closure was agreed with Network Rail as part of the electrification and Crossrail works.

A spokesman said: “We are sorry for any inconvenience caused. The Great Western network is currently undergoing its greatest investment since Brunel, which will see passengers benefit from more trains, more seats and more frequent services.”

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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