Saturday, 18 September 2021
ALL trains on the Henley branch line will be held to connect with delayed services from London where possible following pressure from campaigners.
Great Western Railway has announced it is restoring the policy, which allows outgoing trains at Twyford station, where branch line trains connect with other lines, to be held for up to four minutes.
Staff were previously told not to hold off-peak services during the day, meaning passengers to and from Henley, Shiplake and Wargrave would miss their connections when trains were late.
The branch line has been operating with a new 30-minute shuttle since May, although Wargrave is missed by every other train during off-peak times.
GWR had previously promised that services would be held, when possible, for four minutes during the day and up to 15 minutes in the evening when there were delays.
But Philip Meadowcroft, founder of the Wargrave User Group, said he had missed a connection to the village at Twyford last month after his train from Paddington arrived a minute after the branch line service had left.
He was told by staff at the station that no trains were to be held between 9.20am and 4.48pm.
Mr Meadowcroft said: “We are expecting clarification from GWR with regard to holding back trains at Twyford when incoming mainline services are late.
“This is because we have discovered that what GWR’s management have been telling us is contradicted by written operational instructions which the long-suffering GWR staff must observe. Who and what are we to believe?”
GWR said that holding trains throughout the day could have a detrimental impact on other services but last week confirmed that all services would now be held where required.
A spokesman said: “We did recently amend our connection policy for off-peak services. This was to ensure that we avoided importing delays into the rest of the day. With the new 30-minute frequency timetable working well, we will look at bringing the connectional policy for off-peak services in line with peak services.”
Neil Gunnell, of Henley Trains, said: “Punctuality has not been great in the last couple of weeks. GWR seem to have gone through a rough patch due to signal problems and things like that and we are talking to them about that.
“If the branch line is running a half-hourly shuttle it needs to keep moving. GWR has always promised that if a Wargrave connection is missed the next train will stop. Travellers are reminded to alert staff if this is the case.”
GWR also said that several cancellations two weeks ago were caused by a lack of drivers and “infrastructure challenges” in London and the Thames Valley.
Some trains in London were cancelled during busy times which had a knock-on effect for travellers on the branch line. The spokesman said: “We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to customers.”
Meanwhile, the 5.06pm service from Henley to Twyford, which connects to a London service, will not be scrapped under a new timetable to be introduced next month.
The service was to be cancelled along with two direct trains to London in a new timetable from September 4.
Now GWR says the service will stay but will run two minutes slower until Friday, September 15 due to electrification work in Bristol.
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