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News Archive 2015

Campaign to Save Through Trains

Cookham Lib-Dem Parish Councillor Martin Coker is campaigning to get a stay of execution for through trains between Bourne End and London. Read more on the Royal Borough Lib-Dems web site. They have also started a petition to get the branch electrified.

Update: Listen to Cllr. Fiona Hewer’s interview (MP3) on Radio Berkshire.

Open Letter to Theresa May

Cookham PC has sent an open letter (PDF) to Maidenhead’s MP, Theresa May to express the council’s concerns about electrification, through trains to London and the lack of toilets on the proposed Crossrail trains. The letter asks Mrs. May to “ensure that Crossrail’s decisions are reviewed to include the needs of passengers from Cookham, and that electrification of the Maidenhead-Marlow branch line takes place at the same time as the main line and its other branch lines".

Update: Read Theresa May’s reply (PDF).

Ticket Office Hours to be Reduced?

We have been notified of proposed changes to the opening hours at some ticket offices.

Bourne End: new hours would be 06:05 to 12:35 on weekdays (currently 06:15 to 13:15) and 07:10 to 13:40 on Saturdays (currently 07:15 to 14:15), a reduction of 3 hours a week.

Cookham: unchanged on weekdays, 08:00 to 11:30 Saturdays (currently 08:15 to 12:00). Reduction 15 minutes.

Taplow: proposed 06:30 to 13:00 on weekdays (currently 06:20 to 13:40), a reduction of 2 hours a week. Closed on weekends.

As far as we know Furze Platt and Twyford are unaffected.

You can purchase tickets on the train outside these times (except through trains from London which can be driver-only-operated) but the changes will affect customers wishing to pick up tickets for travel later on. Customers wishing to purchase or renew season tickets early in the morning would benefit from some changes.

If you will be adversely affected you have until 31st January to comment to Transport Focus.

GWR Christmas and New Year Services

Great Western has published details of its Christmas services, or lack thereof.

As usual there will be no trains on Christmas day or Boxing Day. Services will run down early on Christmas Eve.

The Marlow branch will be closed from 27th December to 3rd January inclusive. Replacement buses will operate. On 27th and 28th December no trains will run between Slough and Paddington. Buses will operate between Maidenhead and High Wycombe for connection into Chiltern services.

Trains will not call at Taplow on some days. Buses will operate between Slough and Maidenhead calling at Burnham and Taplow.

Full details can be found here.

Shaw Report Consultation -
Respond by 24 December 2015

The government is running a consultation on the future shape and financing of Network Rail for the ‘Shaw Report’. The consultation closes at 23:45 on Thursday 24th December, Christmas Eve. We leave the reader to speculate on why this is being sneaked out just before Christmas! Full details and how to respond here.

Chiltern Boxing Day Service

Chiltern Railways will be running a modified service between Marylebone and Oxford Parkway calling at principal stations including High Wycombe and Bicester Village.

Hendy Report Now Out

Sir Peter Hendy’s report to the Secretary of State for Transport on the replanning of Network Rail’s Investment Programme can be downloaed here.

The report specifically excludes electrification of the “Bourne End and Marlow branch lines” from the Great Western electrification plans for Control Period 5 (April 2014 to March 2019). It also fails to reschedule the project for CP6 (2019-24). Electrification of the lines to Windsor and Eton Central, and Henley-on-Thames is expected to be completed within CP5. The Basingstoke line and Cardiff to Swansea have been pushed back into CP6.

December Timetables Available

new timetables

The new timetables starting on 13th December are available from staffed stations. The branch line leaflet, E8, reverts to the old format showing connecting times at Paddington, Slough and Reading as voted for by MMPA members. The London to Reading booklet, E1, includes the Thames Valley branch lines but does not show Marlow, Henley or Windsor connections in the main tables.

Chiltern Timetable Changes from 13 Dec.

Chiltern Railways have published details of their timetable changes from December. You can view a list of changes and download the timetables from this page.

Maidenhead Works Oct-Dec 2015

Network Rail has advised us that they will be continuing work to replace the canopies over platforms 2/3 and 4/5 at Maidenhead between October and December 2015. These works will take place mostly at night and during weekend posessions.

Maidenhead Drop-In Session - 1st December

Network Rail’s Community Relations team for Crossrail will be holding a drop-in information session at Maidenhead station on Tuesday 1st December from 15:30 to 19:30 hrs. The event will give you a chance to ask the teams involved any questions you have about the work they will be doing over Christmas and about the wider Crossrail programme. If you are unable to attend you can call the 24-hour helpline on 03457 114141 or contact them by e-mail.

Works: 14-21 November

Network Rail will be relaying 100m of track opposite Ludlow Road, west of Maidenhead, but on the North side of the railway. This involves excavation and tamping which can be noisy and which will have to be done overnight. Local residents will have been advised.

Also between 23:00 11th November and 06:00 12th November, and possibly the following night, Network Rail will be installing piled foundations between Taplow and Maidenhead.

Electrification Update

At the recent RCTS talk on the Great Western Route Modernisation, Tom Pierpoint, GWR’s “sponsor” for the Thames Valley section said that GWR was still expecting to run electric services on the Windsor & Eton Central and Henley-on-Thames branches. Electrification of the Marlow branch and the Reading to Basingstoke line was not going ahead at present.

Update: At a recent meeting arranged by RBWM with Theresa May MP, GWR, Network Rail, user groups and other stakeholders Network Rail said that electrification of all three branches was still scheduled, but GWR MD Mark Hopwood said it was not going to happen during the current GWR franchise which runs to 2019. We await publication of the Hendy Report to learn how the various electrification projects will be rescheduled.

Norman Topsom MBE Retires

Norman Topsom

Twyford’s station master and all-round railway legend, Norman Topsom, decided to hang up his whistle after 53 years on the railway. GWR pulled out all the stops to give him a memorable farewell on 30th October, including naming Networker Express unit 166204 after him, commissioning a painting by local artist Terri Jones and a party at Henley-on-Thames.

Click on the picture to see more photos on our gallery.

Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village Open

Oxford Parkway

The new Chiltern Railways service to Oxford Parkway at Water Eaton commenced on Sunday 25th October although the offical launch was not until Monday 26th, The Sunday shake-down day was very successful with lots of customers trying out the new route. See our new photo gallery.

The new station at Bicester Village replaces the former Bicester Town station (but retains its “BIT” CRS code) and provides direct access to the village via a separate exit. Islip station has been completely rebuilt with two platforms.

Update: Following complaints bus route 500 from Oxford Parkway has been extended from the city centre to Oxford station.

There have been some problems with ticketing to Oxford station, with customers being charged the fare via Banbury instead of via Oxford Parkway and the connecting bus. Customers have been advised to book to Parkway and pay separately on the bus (or buy PlusBus).

GWR East 8 Pocket Timetable Format

Thanks to all those who replied to our poll. Our choice by 68% to 32% of those expressing a preference is for the previous format with all branch line trains plus connecting times at Paddington, Slough and Reading. This has been communicated to GWR. We asked for reinstatement of the shading to indicate peak hour restrictions but this is unlikely to be forthcoming because fare restrictions could change during the validity of the timetable.

We also noted that the branch line tables were removed from the latest East 1 timetable booklet. We have asked for connecting times at Windsor and Eton Central, Bourne End, Marlow and Henley-on-Thames to be included in the main table. This should be possible while still having two timetable bands per page.

FGW Had Two of the Five Most Overcrowded Trains in 2014

A report just issued by the Department for Transport lists two First Great Western services amongst the ten most overcrowded peak trains in England and Wales in Autumn 2014. These are the 06:31 and 07:02 Reading to London Paddington which are in 3rd and 5th place respectively. A Heathrow Connect service is 4th. The 06:31 is a 3-car turbo with a standard class load factor of 176% (646 passengers on a train with an allowable capacity including standing of 367). FGW responded by saying that it was going to declassify first class sections of Class 165 turbos giving an extra 16 standard class seats per unit - against an excess of passengers over capacity of 279 not counting any first class ticket holders who will now have to travel standard class!

Chiltern Line to Oxford to open on 25th October

Chiltern Railways has announced that the first full day of service between Oxford Parkway (at Water Eaton) and Marylebone via Bicester Village and High Wycombe will be Monday 26th October (See BBC News story). The service will be extended to Oxford station later, but in the mean time buses will operate from the Park & Ride area adjacent to Parkway station.

Update: you can download the October timetable here.

Update 2: There will be a service to Oxford Parkway on Sunday 25th October. Download the special timetable here (PDF). The first train from High Wycombe to Oxford Parkway leaves High Wycombe at 08:05 GMT. There is a Class 68 trip at 11:01, returning to Bicester Village and Marylebone only. There will be a rail replacement bus service between Banbury and Leamington Spa on Sunday.

First Class Gone on Class 165 Turbos

First Great Western has announced that following the start of the new GWR franchise on 20th September, first class accommodation will be reclassified as standard class on Class 165/1 Networker Turbo trains to increase capacity. This means local stopping services including the Thames Valley branch lines. Class 166 Turbo Express units which form fast trains to Oxford as well as trains to Bedwyn, Gatwick Airport and on the North Cotswold line will continue to have first class. GWR will be operating a new catering service on Reading - Gatwick Airport and Paddington - Bedwyn trains.

FGW was contacting first class season ticket holders on the routes affected to offer them full or partial (for switching to standard class) refunds for the unexpired period. You can read a mailmerge template for the letter [deeleted] here (PDF).

We contacted FGW for an explanation of the refunds and they confirm that first class season ticket holders who surrender their tickets as a result of the changes will get a full pro rata refund for the unused period. The letter from Mark Hopwood suggests a method of calculation that could result in a reduced refund.

Update: The first class sections in Class 165 Turbos have officially been declassified even if the external figure “1” and yellow band remain. Usually there is a small sticker on the inside partition saying that the area can be used by standard class ticket holders. Also the sliding doors are secured open and internal first signs have been removed.

Taplow Footbridge

The footbridge at Taplow Station was damaged by a rail crane earlier this year and has been closed between platforms 1 ans 2 (over the main lines). A temporary footbridge has been constructed at the London end of the platforms. We are pressing for a full accessible footbridge with lifts on the south side as well as between platforms 3 and 4.

Marlow Electrification shelved for CP5

Although electrification of the Windsor and Henley branches is to go ahead, the Marlow branch will not now be done in Control Period 5 (to 2019) despite the fact that it was added to the Government’s High Level Output Specification for CP5. Network Rail is citing technical difficulties as the reason although they could quite easily electrify a simple branch line if they wanted to. One or two bridges may need clearance work but this can often be done by lowering the trackbed. There are no footbridges at stations to worry about.

The main difficulty for the operator is that non-standard three car trains with 20m coaches will be needed because of the limited distance between the buffer stops at Bourne End and the junction for Marlow. Such trains are in use elsewhere e.g. class 319, 320 and 334 in Scotland, not to mention class 313/4/5 which are getting a bit long in the tooth. There are no 2-car 25kV overhead electric trains.

It should be noted that Reading Traincare Depot already maintains two very non-standard prototype Class 150 units (150001/2) which are used on the Basingstoke service, so having a small dedicated electric fleet for the Great Marlow Line should not be a problem.

If funding is achieved for the infrastructure changes at Bourne End (see left) then it makes sense to do these before electrifying the line. However we shall be pressing our MPs to make sure that electrification is included in CP6.


We asked Maidenhead MP Theresa May why her government allowed First Group to negotiate Maidenhead - Marlow electrification out of the new Great Western franchise. So far we have not heard a dicky bird from her.

We have received an acknowledgement from Theresa May's office. Mrs May is going to take the matter up with the DfT. We have heard nothing more.

Pocket Timetable Format - Have Your Say!

GWR have asked for our preference for the format of the Marlow branch line pocket timetable. The choices are (a) as at present showing all services between Maidenhead and London Paddington, or (b) as previously showing connecting times at Paddington and Reading. Time is short so if you wish to express a preference please email no later than Wednesday 30th September.

Talk: Electrification and Enhancements on the Great Western

Monday 28th September, 19:30hrs at Cox Green Community Centre.

The RCTS has invited Tom Pierpoint of Great Western Railway and Kevin Miller of Network Rail to talk about the major project which is now upon us. Non-members are welcome. Admission is free but a donation of £2 for RCTS members and £3 for non-members is requested to cover meeting expenses.

RMT Strikes

First Great Western services will be affected by strike action over the bank holiday weekend, 29th-31st August. Thames Valley services should run but there will be no guards so no service between Bourne End and Marlow. There are no DOO (driver only operation) facilities at Marlow.

GWR Franchise Takes Over

The new Great Western Railway franchise commenced on 20th September. The FGW web site will now redirect you to the domain. We have updated most of our links but haven't checked them all out yet.

Taplow Footbridge

The footbridge at Taplow Station was damaged by a rail crane and has been closed between platforms 1 ans 2 (over the main lines). A minibus shuttle is operating between the north and south sides of the station. We understand that the provision of a temporary footbridge is being pursued pending repairs and electrification clearance work on the existing bridge. In the longer term an accesible footbridge with lifts will be built between platforms 3 and 4 only.

Update: The temporary footbridge is now open.

Electrification Works

Piling and erection work continues along the line, mostly at night and over weekends when the Relief lines can be closed. Local residents will have been warned about possible disruption and replacement bus services for Burnham and Taplow at these times.

New MMPA Notice Boards at High Wycombe

Former MMPA Chair, Susan Morrison cut the ribbon to officially unveil the new MMPA notice board at High Wycombe station. This board is in the booking hall area. A slightly smaller one will be installed on platform 3 when building work is complete. Many thanks to Chiltern Railways and SM Rob Munday in particular for the excellent work.

High Wycombe notice board

Subway at High Wycombe Closes

The subway at High Wycombe closed at end of service on Friday 10th July to enable platform 2 to be extended for longer trains. A temporary footbridge has been erected between platforms 1 and 3, and special arrangements are in place for people with reduced mobility. Eventually a new footbridge with lifts will be constructed and this should also have peak hour access for ticket holders directly from the car park.

FGW Strike 9-10 July

First Great Western is planning to run most Thames Valley services during the strike but there will be no service between Bourne End and Marlow. Long distance services will be much reduced and some routes will not operate at all.

Chiltern services via High Wycombe are expected to run normally although those via the Met line will be affected by a separate strike on the London Underground. No UndergrounD services will run from 18:30 today and all day tomorrow (Thursday).

Hot Weather Service Changes

No throught trains between Paddington and Bourne End today or tomorrow. Trains will terminate at Maidenhead with connecting services to Bourne End. This is imposed by Network Rail to minimise the risk of points failing due to high ambient temperatures. More information here.

MMPA Thanks Susan Morrison

The MMPA Committee presented outgoing chairperson, Susan Morrison, with an engraved silver plate to thank her for her sterling work on behalf of the Association and rail travellers in our area. MMPA Treasurer John Marsh presented the plate (below).

John Marsh, Susan Morrison

FGW May Timetables Now Available

The May 2015 range of First Great Western timetables is now available to view and download from the FGW web site. Printed copies will be delivered to stations by Friday 17 April.

A combined volume will be available in around two weeks’ time. This will have a price of £5 again, but will only cover the period until September when we will be issuing a free supplement to it.

Cookham Festival WW1 Exhibition

Come along to the Cookham Festival WW1 exhibition in Cookham station, courtesy of First Great Western. It's open every day from 10:30 to 16:00 until Sunday 17th May and during booking office opening times. The exhibition tells the story of the many Cookham men who died in the First World War, along with stories and pictures of the Cookham of that time and its involvement in the war. Visit Cookham Festival web site.

“FGW to almost double some fares” after Election.

According to Railfuture’s newsletter train companies are planning fare rises of up to 87% on 17th May, just after the election. Apparently David Cameron has asked FGW to reconsider its decision to almost double some fares on the Cotswold line which, guess what, runs through his constituency.

Western Rail Access to Heathrow

Network Rail has been holding information sessions to explain its plans for a rail link to Heathrow from the west and would welcome any feedback here (e-mail). More information can be found here.

Major Disruption at Easter

First Great Western has announced details of its service arrangements for 3rd - 11th April when major permanent way work will be carried out between Hayes & Harlington and Didcot Parkway. Replacement bus services will be operating. For Twyford passengers there will be a bus link to Wokingham.

For those affected by browser compatibility problems on the FGW site we have reproduced the relevant local information [since deleted]. We have noticed some inconsistencies in the information provided and have asked FGW to correct them.

Electrification Works

Crossrail has warned us about the planned installation of a transformer to the west of Maidenhead station between February and October 2015. For more information about the work please click here.

Chiltern Line Back to Normal on 13th March

We were sent the following statement by Chiltern: “I'm delighted to tell you that Network Rail confirmed yesterday that the line between Leamington Spa and Banbury will be open on 13th March.

“Network Rail has worked tirelessly to repair the landslip and the railway will reopen less than six weeks after the landslip occurred and three weeks earlier than expected. Over 240,000 tonnes of earth have been removed from the site and this has allowed Network Rail engineers to regrade the slope and stabilise it.

“Train services will begin to operate along the line from the start of service on 13 March.

“Network Rail will remain on site for several months after the railway reopens as work continues on the cutting and additional investigations take place on the surrounding area. In addition, the section of railway which has not been used for the duration of the closure will be fully tested before reopening.

“Thank you for your patience and cooperation during this challenging time for Chiltern Railways.”

Chiltern Engineering Works

The line will be closed between High Wycombe and Banbury on 8th and 21st and 22nd March, and between Marylebone and both Aylesbury V.P. and High Wycombe on 21st March until 13:20. On those days tickets to Marylebone will be accepted by First Great Western between Banbury and Paddington and on Cross Country services between Banbury and Reading. There are also some replacement bus services. Details here.

MMPA AGM - Friday 27th March

Your chance to quiz the senior managers from First Great Western and Chiltern Railways. With luck we might have Crossrail and Network Rail represented too, not to mention Arriva The Shires and Carousel. It's at the Bourne End Community Centre (small hall) starting at 19:45. If you're on the 18:42 from Paddington or 19:24 from Marlow you should be in plenty of time. Guests are welcome. Map.

Chiltern Line Blocked by Landslip

The Chiltern Main Line is blocked by a landslip near Harbury tunnel between Banbury and Leamington Spa. There is a replacement bus service between these two stations. Chiltern tickets between London and the West Midlands are being accepted by Virgin Trains and London Midland. More information here.

Update: An emergency timetable is still in operation. The line may be closed for some weeks.

Western Rail Access to Heathrow

Network Rail is holding information sessions to explain its plans for a rail link to Heathrow from the west. Our nearest sessions are at Reading, on the trasfer deck, on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th February and at Slough station on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st February, all from 16:00 to 18:00 hours.

Network Rail would welcome any feedback here (e-mail). More information can be found here.

RBWM Bus Survey

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is carrying out a short survey following its recent marketing exercise. You don't have to be a bus user to take part. The survey closes on January 31st. You can take part here.

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