Thursday, 22 April 2021

Rail passengers upset at thought of shorter trains

RAIL travellers in Wargrave have criticised plans to introduce shorter trains on the Henley branch line.

From December next year, the line will have a two-coach service all day compared with the current four- or five-coach trains.

The plans were revealed by Great Western Railway at a meeting in Maidenhead this week.

Philip Meadowcroft, founder of the Wargrave User Group, who was at the meeting in Maidenhead, called the move “reckless” and said it would lead to more crowded trains and people missing trains and their connections at Twyford.

He has raised his concerns with Wargrave Parish Council and written to Maidenhead MP and Prime Minister Theresa May.

Tom Pierpoint, regional development manager for GWR, told the meeting that the branch line would be short of train coaches as they needed to be sent to routes in the West Country.

A four-coach service could be used during the Henley Royal Regatta, when the line is at its busiest.

There could also be a swap deal with the Reading to Basingstoke service, which will have a three-coach train.

Mr Meadowcroft said: “The service will reduce to two-coach trains, even in rush hour. It will be quite a squeeze. It is feckless and reckless of GWR to operate on this basis. As it is, the chance of missing trains is high and the morning situation is dire.

“There are also no plans whatsoever to improve the situation at Twyford station. There’s a real prospect of serious deterioration.”

Mr Meadowcroft added that Mrs May had agreed to arrange a meeting with the GWR managing director Mark Hopwood before Christmas.

Wargrave Parish Council has agreed to write to the company.

Commuters from Wargrave are already upset about a new 30-minute shuttle service on the branch line that is due to replace the existing
45- minute service from May.

The new timetable will offer faster travel for residents of Henley, Shiplake and Twyford but Wargrave will be missed out by alternate trains during off-peak periods, meaning it will have only an hourly service. 

GWR says the change will benefit the majority of passengers who use the line and any services lost in the day will be replaced by extra trains in the evening.

The company has also said that the half-hourly service for Wargrave will be restored once the line has been electrified but this project has been deferred indefinitely.

Mrs May has previously called the effect of the new timetable on Wargrave passengers “disappointing”.

 A GWR spokesman said: “We are now operating new eight-car electric trains on the main line in London and the Thames Valley.

“These are set to continue being rolled out over the course of the next year, providing customers with more new trains, more carriages and more seats and significantly increasing capacity on the main line stations into London Paddington.

“We are unable to use these electric trains on the branch line as they are too long.

“We will therefore operate a diesel shuttle service between Twyford and Henley with connecting eight- car electric services from Twyford providing more seats for all users of the line and station stops towards London Paddington.

“The number of carriages required to serve Henley, Shiplake and Wargrave on the branch line is not yet finalised. It is possible that this will be a two- or three-car service. We will be undertaking customer counts in the New Year.”

Monday’s meeting was also attended by Henley Mayor Julian Brookes and representatives of Network Rail.

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