Saturday, 28 November 2020

PM joins calls to scrap train timetable

THERESA MAY has backed campaigners who are calling for a new train timetable on the Henley branch line to be scrapped.

THERESA MAY has backed campaigners who are calling for a new train timetable on the Henley branch line to be scrapped.

The Prime Minister and Maidenhead MP met Philip Meadowcroft, founder of the Wargrave User Group, to discuss plans for a 30-minute shuttle on the line between Henley and Twyford, which would mean fewer trains calling at Wargrave station.

Great Western Railway says the new timetable will offer faster travel for residents of Henley, Shiplake and Twyford as it will replace the existing service, which runs every 45 minutes.

But Wargrave would be missed out by alternate trains during off-peak periods, meaning it would have only an hourly service once the new timetable begins in May.

GWR says the change will benefit the majority of passengers who use the branch line and the half-hourly services could be extended to Wargrave once electrification of the line is completed, which could be as late as 2019.

Mr Meadowcroft says the plans would make Wargrave a less desirable place to live.

He met Mrs May on Friday and said she had agreed that the shuttle service would negatively affect Wargrave.

Earlier this year, Mrs May called the new timetable “disappointing”. In a letter to GWR managing director Mark Hopwood, she said: “It is very disappointing that GWR intends to press ahead with cuts to the off-peak services at Wargrave.

“It is not acceptable for my constituents in Wargrave to be disadvantaged so that passengers in Henley can get a faster service.”

Wargrave Parish Council wrote to GWR last month calling for existing services to be retained.

It said the current service was “valuable to our community” and, while it supported the new shuttle service, it did not want to see “a progressive deterioration of the services to and from Wargrave as it would have a consequent impact upon our community”.

Mr Meadowcroft said he had written to GWR, urging the company to scrap the draft timetable but had yet to receive a reply.

He said the off-peak period was “vital” for students, leisure commuters and shift or part-time workers.

He said: “Among the latter especially, they rely on the structure of the current timetable to collect young children from school and pre-school day care.

“GWR’s proposed timetable will start the erosion of the economic wellbeing of the Wargrave community and even the desirability of living and bringing up a family in Wargrave.”

Mr Meadowcroft said the new timetable also didn’t appear to allow for connecting trains at Twyford to be held in the case of delays, meaning people were more likely to miss their connections.

He also called for an assurance from GWR that electrification of the branch line would result in the 30-minute shuttle being expanded to Wargrave.

A spokeswoman for Mrs May said: “Theresa has always been clear that she does not believe that branch line users should lose out but at the same time she is very supportive of the electrification of the mainline, which will improve the service for many of her constituents.

“Therefore, if the cuts at Wargrave go ahead, she has asked for a firm commitment that a half-hourly service will be introduced at Wargrave once the branch line has been electrified, when faster electric trains will be in use.”

A GWR spokesman said: “With complex timetables, inevitably we cannot improve service for the majority of users without having an impact on some others.

“The improvements planned balance the needs of all rail users on the branch line and will deliver the greatest overall benefit for the communities that we serve.”

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