Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Rail users’ group to be set up

A train at Henley station
COMMUTERS in Henley are to form a new group in a bid to have a say on rail services.

The idea was raised at a public meeting at the Christ Church centre on Friday evening organised by Henley MP John Howell.

About 45 people turned up to put questions to Mark Hopwood, managing director of First Great Western, and Tim Leighton, senior programme manager at Network Rail.

They raised issues including delays, overcrowding and late-night services and asked for more frequent services from London Paddington to Henley.

David Singer, of King’s Road, Henley, said he would like half-hourly services in the evening during the week.

He said: “The 6.05pm train is invariably late. During October and November it was late 10 times.”

Sarah Weldon, from Henley, said: “The biggest problem I find is getting stuck at Twyford when you are rushing to catch a train and you miss it by one minute. In winter, when the toilets and waiting room are locked, you’re stuck on the platform with nothing to do.”

Patricia Mulcahy, of Milton Close, Henley, added: “You think of overcrowding in terms of carriages. I’m thinking of the number of bodies crammed in. Sometimes in the evening there will be 50 or more people standing in a carriage.

You can’t cram people into a bus because there is a maximum passenger number but you can put any number of people on a train and trains go much faster.”

Mr Hopwood said some first class carriages on First Great Western trains had been converted to create more space and that more would follow in the coming months.

He said the next opportunity to change the train timetables would be May 2015.

He continued: “We recognise that punctuality and reliability haven’t been as good as we would like. We have had some real challenges to face and we are reviewing a number of key areas, particularly customer information.”

Mr Hopwood said he had received many emails about the 6.05pm service from Paddington, which he said had a “chequered” past.

He added: “I have set up a performance task force to address some of the poor-performing services we have had in the last few months and can assure you the 6.05pm train is top of the list.”

Mr Hopwood said he would return to Henley for a follow-up meeting in three months and would make a presentation addressing all the issues raised during the 90-minute meeting.

Mr Howell, who organised the meeting after receiving complaints from constituents about problems with rail services, said: “I think two really positive things came out of this meeting - that a rail users’ group is going to be set up and that Mr Hopwood will come back for another meeting. There were some who doubted First Great Western would take notice of their concerns but it has done so and a follow-up meeting to outline how it is going to take them into account is important.

One of those attending the meeting commented afterwards that the good thing was First Great Western understood the feelings of commuters.”

Patrick Fleming, of Henley in Transition, will be collecting the names of anyone interested in joining the Henley rail users’ group.

He said: “At this stage it’s about getting people together to decide what we want to do and how to form the group.

The idea is to give people a way of talking to First Great Western and Network Rail to improve services for passengers but also to encourage and promote rail use in general.”

Anyone who would like to join should email Mr Fleming at flemings5@tesco.net

• 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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