Monday, 11 December 2017

'Henley will get electric trains by 2017' - pledge

ELECTRIFICATION of the Henley branch line is still in doubt despite a pledge that the trains will be available within two years.

ELECTRIFICATION of the Henley branch line is still in doubt despite a pledge that the trains will be available within two years.

A passenger watchdog fears that the work might still not go ahead as Network Rail?s programme is over budget.

First Great Western announced on Monday that it will continue operating trains through Oxfordshire until at least 2019.

The new franchise agreement with the Department for Transport starts in September and includes a pledge to have electric trains running to Henley from December 2017.

FGW says that in addition to the introduction of electric trains for commuter services, trains will have free on-board wifi and stopping services will be more frequent.

The company will also look at introducing a smart ticketing service and a suite of energy efficient improvements at Henley station.

But the Henley Branch Users Group says the branch line electrification is not guaranteed.

Chairwoman Patricia Mulcahy said: ?First Great Western is in no position to make promises as the electrification of the line falls to Network Rail.

?We are not at all sure what money will be there for the electrification of the branch line as that stage has not yet been reached. They are currently over budget.?

But Henley Mayor Martin Akehurst said: ?I think electrification will now happen. They should have completed their survey of the line now and have a cost to base it on.

?When electrification happens it will safeguard our straight-through trains. It should also mean that they are faster because they will be able to accelerate more quickly due to the trains being lighter.?

Henley MP John Howell said: ?This is excellent news for all the people in this constituency who rely on our railways to get to work and get around day-to-day. ?I?m particularly pleased to see that Goring and Streatley station will benefit from improvements to the car park from 2016 while electrified services will run on the Henley branch line from December 2017.

?I am also glad that busy commuting routes into London such as ours will see a significant increase in capacity and better journey times. Delivering investment in our railways is a key part of the Conservatives? long-term economic plan and, as this agreement shows, it is bringing real improvements to our railways.?

FGW has also pledged 9,000 extra seats every day, more car parking spaces and faster trains between South Wales, Bristol and London.

In the Thames Valley, the company will replace most of its Turbo commuter fleet with a mix of 58 electric trains comprised of 37 new and as-new four-carriage Class 387 trains and 21 four-carriage Class 365 trains from spring 2016. This will increase the number of seats for commuters travelling in the high peak by 25 per cent from 2017. These new trains can run with up to 12 coaches.

New Super Express Trains will start taking over long distance services between London, Reading and destinations through to Bristol, and South Wales from 2017.

First Great Western managing director Mark Hopwood said: ?For us, this franchise deal is about changing the way people think about rail.

?The Great Western network is already seeing the biggest investment since Brunel and this deal has been designed to match that investment and ambition.

?It gives passengers newer trains, faster, more frequent services and, importantly, given the growth this franchise has seen in recent years, more seats ? three million extra seats a year by December 2018.?

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: ?We are currently undertaking a feasibility study into the possibility of electrifying three branch lines in the Thames Valley.

?These are the lines from Maidenhead to Bourne End and Marlow, from Twyford to Henley-on-Thames and from Slough to Windsor and Eton Central.

?Once completed, this study will be submitted to the Department for Transport, which will decide on whether the scope of the electrification programme will be broadened.?

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