Tuesday, 18 February 2020
RAIL users are being urged to prepare themselves for timetable changes as part of the Crossrail project.
From December 15, Transport for London will start running the stopping services between Paddington and Reading.
This is in preparation for the service becoming part of the Elizabeth Line, a 73-mile link from London to the Home Counties.
The new services will become part of Crossrail when it launches in 2021.
There will be four stopping services from Twyford to Paddington every hour at peak times, with two operated by Great Western Railway and the other two covered by the new Elizabeth Line trains.
During off-peak hours, there will be two trains and pay-as-you-go contactless payments will be accepted from January when fares increase by 2.8 per cent.
Services currently provided by GWR will be operated as Transport for London Rail, which will become the Elizabeth Line when the network opens through central London.
This development may not be good news for users of the Henley branch line, according to passengers groups.
Patrick Fleming, secretary of the Henley Branch User Group, said: “I don’t like Crossrail. It does not have the facilities that the GWR trains have.
“If you have lots of people boarding at Twyford, it means they could have to stand for half an hour before they get to London.
“They still haven’t completed the tunnels through London, so the benefit will only come when you can travel underground through central London.
“Crossrail is not quick either. Passengers from Henley will experience a degradation in their service. Commuter services will be longer and that is a huge frustration.
“I am sure passengers are smart enough anyway but they would be best to stick with the GWR trains. That still gives them a reasonable journey time.
“The introduction of Crossrail is just muddying the waters and making commuters’ lives harder.
“But we have got to wait and see how Network Rail manage the traffic flow between the old and the exisiting services.
“I wish them great success because we don’t want to see the rail industry fail, but we don’t think they are making it easy for themselves or the customers.”
Philip Meadowcroft, chairman of Wargrave Users Group, said: “You have to be objective about this and clearly Crossrail is not without its flaws.
“It may be that aspiration has overtaken reality here.
“This is not even the start of the Crossrail we were promised because the tunnel is not finished yet. I cannot for the life of me see how this is going to work.
“One of the things that annoys me is it will be very difficult to get to Paddington before 10.30am on the first off-peak train.
“So much has been done without too much examination of the consequences and it won't be until May when we get to have a say on how the timetables can be changed.”
Neil Gunnell, of passenger group Henley Trains, said: “We have worked closely with GWR over the past year to make sure that branch line trains for the most part connect with other GWR services to London.
“The GWR services have more facilities, such as power sockets, tables, toilets and proper seats.
“The Crossrail trains will be more likeTube trains. We want to make sure that passengers get the comfort they are used to.
“In addition, rush-hour services have been maintained, just with a different timetable.”
The rail link was due to be completed last December and there is now a five-month window of completion between next October and March 2021.
The £17.6 billion project has suffered a number of setbacks and the cost could increase by £400 million.
Howard Smith, operations director for TfL, said: “Starting TfL Rail services to Reading is another step towards opening London's new railway, the Elizabeth Line.
“Customers will see staff at every station and improvements being made to stations along the route, including the installation of lifts to provide step-free access.”
It is estimated that 200 million people will use Crossrail every year.
Meanwhile, Network Rail will be carrying out engineering works between December 24 and 27 and a reduced service with replacement buses between Slough and Hillingdon.
05 October 2019
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