Friday, 22 September 2017

Branch line won't shut, Network Rail tells MP

THE Henley branch line is not under threat of closure despite its electrification being put on hold indefinitely, says Network Rail.

Last week, the Government announced that the project to electrify the line between Henley and Twyford was one of four to be deferred in order to save money.

The line was originally supposed to be electrified by the end of next year but this had already been put back to as late as 2019 before the announcement by rail minister Paul Maynard.

Rail campaigners said they feared for the future of the branch line as a result of the new delay but Network Rail has denied any threat of closure.

In a letter to Henley MP John Howell, the company said: “Nothing has been cancelled from our work programme. It is a question of when, not if.

“Our work has been streamlined to enable us to secure the most benefits to the most people in the shortest possible time.

“This means completing the London to Bristol Parkway to Cardiff route as a priority, including electrification at Twyford station where the Henley branch line connects to the Great Western main line.”

Network Rail said that “bi-mode” trains, which can run on both diesel and electricity, would be introduced on the line next year and suggested that electrification could be carried out by 2024.

Mr Howell said: “I am glad that I have been able to confirm with Network Rail that the branch line is not under threat of closure. There are some who see everything in a negative light rather than pointing to the positives and what a wonderful place Henley is to live.

“The branch line is an important part of Henley and I am happy to have corrected this particular myth.”

A new 30-minute shuttle is still due to be introduced on the Henley branch line in May. This will replace the current 45-minute service but will miss Wargrave station every other train during off-peak times.

Commuters in Wargrave have criticised the plans, which they say will reduce services in the village and make it a less desirable place to live.

Great Western Railway says the new timetable will benefit the majority of passengers and claims Wargrave will not lose services as extra evening trains will be provided.

The company has also promised that every train will stop at Wargrave once the branch line has been electrified.

Meanwhile, parking charges at Henley station are set to rise. The charge for all-day parking will go up from £4.50 to £4.80 from Sunday, December 11.

Signs were erected at the car park this week and GWR also sent letters to season ticket holders informing them of the change.

l 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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