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Henley train 'busiest in the country'
Published 21/12/12

COMMUTERS from Henley travel to work on the busiest train in the country.

The 7.44am service from Henley to London Paddington carries 80 per cent more passengers than its official capacity.

The figures, released by the Department for Transport, came after passengers learned they face a 4.2 per cent rise in the cost of their annual season ticket from next month.

In April, DfT figures showed that four in 10 passengers on the First Great Western service were forced to stand on the train, making it the busiest in the South-East.

This survey, carried out on one day, found that the three-carriage train, which stops at Wargrave, Shiplake, Twyford and Maidenhead, was carrying 373 passengers, 148 more than it was designed to hold.

Since then, a carriage has been added by the train company.

Commuter Mark Hanson, of Greys Road, Henley said the service was still overcrowded and the extra capacity could have made the problem worse.

“People realise there’s more space so even more get on,” he said. “There are people standing from Twyford and Maidenhead and you have to feel sorry for them.”

Mr Hanson said the service was often late and on Friday last week, he had to drive to work because it was cancelled due to signalling problems.

“The reliability is abysmal and coming back from London is a complete nightmare,” he said. “They are going to increase the fares by about £250 next year, which is astonishing, but people need to work.

“I’m all for keeping people off the roads but if the service is unreliable people will go back to driving.”

George Thomas, who uses the service from Henley about once a week, felt the fourth carriage had helped.

“It’s got a little bit better but it’s still not great,” he said. “If you get on at Henley, Shiplake or Wargrave, you are always going to get a seat but it’s really packed by the time you get to Twyford and Maidenhead.”

Mr Thomas, who co-founded Regatta Radio, said it would be difficult to add another carriage because of platform sizes but questioned the need to stop at Maidenhead.

He said: “It does seem silly and if you got rid of that stop it would make it a bit nicer on board. There are plenty of other services from there and quite often you see people not bother to get on because it’s so full.”

First Great Western said the survey, which was carried out in Autumn 2011, was out of date.

A spokesman said: “We previously recognised that this service was very busy.

Since this research was carried out, we have strengthened this service with an additional carriage so it now offers 340 standard class seats. This is an increase in capacity of just over 50 per cent from autumn 2011.”

Rail minister Norman Baker said he would be monitoring overcrowded services.

He said: “Climbing on a crowded train where there is little space can often be an unpleasant experience and I can sympathise with passengers who have to travel on these services.”

In April, a Standard reporter boarded the train and found that bicycles were brought on the train when they were prohibited.

A guard struggled to make his way down the train to check tickets because of overcrowding and the service arrived at London Paddington 39 minutes late.

Published 21/12/12

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