Saturday, 21 July 2018

Train company's figures are wrong says campaigner

TRAIN users in Wargrave have called for the introduction of a new service on the Henley branch line to be postponed.

TRAIN users in Wargrave have called for the introduction of a new service on the Henley branch line to be postponed.

Great Western Railway wants to create a new half-hour shuttle service on the line to replace the existing service, which runs every 45 minutes.

This would offer faster travel for residents of Henley, Shiplake and Twyford but Wargrave would be missed out by alternate trains during off-peak, meaning the village would have only an hourly service.

The new service is set to come into effect in May and half-hourly services could be extended to Wargrave once electrification of the line is completed, which is expected to be in 2019.

GWR says its plans will benefit the majority of passengers who use the branch line but members of the Wargrave Users’ Group say research by the company on passenger numbers was “flawed” and their own research produced different results.

GWR used sensors in train doors to count the number of passengers getting on and off at different stations. It found that in 2014 there was an average of five off-peak passengers per weekday, while a repeat survey from December 2015 to May this year showed the same figure.

But independent research by Philip Meadowcroft, founder of the Wargrave group, found that more than 16 times as many passengers were using the station on two days last month.

Mr Meadowcroft, of Watermans Way, Wargrave, spent about eight hours at the station on June 1 and June 7 from 9am to 5pm. Over the two days there were 63 departures and 30 arrivals on trains heading towards Twyford and 44 departures and 26 arrivals on Henley-bound services.

In an email to Jane Jones, head of public affairs at GWR, he said: “The contrast between your laser beam count data and my visual recording of every passenger using the station could not be starker.

“I fully accept that my two days’ work is not statistically valid but the discrepancy between your figures and mine is too different to be disregarded.

“Until full electrification has been achieved and, with it, the prospect of a 30-minute shuttle serving all stations being a genuine probability, the rationale such as you are relying on for making the changes you have in mind from May 2017 just does not stand up to any serious assessment. I urge you and your colleagues urgently to reconsider the position you have taken and to announce the postponement of any introduction of a 30-minute shuttle until it can serve all stations with electric services.”

Mr Meadowcroft said his group had other concerns about the new service, including not being shown a draft timetable despite asking several times and learning that passenger numbers in Wargrave were not a factor in the decision.

He said: “In other words, GWR is readily admitting that it wishes to disregard the number of customers using Wargrave station purely to create a 30-minute shuttle schedule.”

GWR said its data was an accurate picture of usage and showed more than 80 per cent of customers came from Twyford and Henley stations.

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