Saturday, 18 September 2021
A COMMUTER group in Wargrave says Great Western Railway must improve the reliability and punctuality of its trains if the company’s contract is renewed.
The Department for Transport is currently consulting passengers on plans by GWR to take up an option to extend its contract on the Henley branch line and Great Western main line until March 2020.
GWR is also negotiating with the DfT for an additional two years.
The company is proposing to split the franchise into smaller operators for different areas, introduce more electric trains and reduce journey times across its network.
Philip Meadowcroft, founder of the Wargrave User Group, said the most important thing was that trains ran regularly and on time.
He said: “The overriding objective is the provision of service safety and reliability through an absolute determination to operate punctually. Slicing and dicing the existing GWR franchise is not a desirable outcome of the consultation.
“Journeys across the region need to be centrally co-ordinated to enable coherent timetabling and connectivity.”
Mr Meadowcroft said there should be more investment in trains, stations and facilities such as car parks as well as more staff training.
He said: “Having the right number of train and maintenance crews in service and in training… a matter which has been materially deficient at GWR during the past year.
“Implementation needs to be driven by a visible and credible chief executive backed by a board of directors and guided by a suitably experienced and qualified chairman.”
Other issues raised by Wargrave commuters include the lack of seating and the absence of toilets on the new Crossrail Elizabeth Line services.
The group also says that the ticketing system should be overhauled to prevent long queues at ticket machines and desks.
It wants the service during Henley Royal Regatta to be improved as not every service currently stops at Wargrave and Shiplake.
Mr Meadowcroft said: “There’s a need for genuine and effective timetabling and ticketing collaboration between competing franchises. Will the same ticket be valid for use on both GWR and Elizabeth Line services?
“There is a crucial need to establish an Oyster-style, or smartphone, ticketing facility at every station since connectivity from branch lines at mainline stations does not generally permit extended queues for tickets.”
Mr Meadowcroft also welcomed the re-instatement of a 30-minute shuttle service in January.
This followed the introduction of a new half-hourly shuttle on the branch line in May last year which meant every other train did not stop at Wargrave and his group campaigned against.
GWR has also removed direct services to London from branch line stations but passengers have complained about congestion at peak times, punctuality and cancellations.
Henley MP John Howell is organising a public meeting to discuss problems on the line and Mark Hopwood, managing director of GWR, has agreed to attend.
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