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News Archive 2019

Taplow’s “Fourth Bridge” Opens

Taplow footbridge   Taplow footbridge

The new bridge and lifts at Taplow, the fourth bridge in about three years, were opened on Monday 16th December and are a big improvement. The temporary bridge is due to be removed in January and is now out of use.

Mark Hopwood to SWR

We’ve heard that GWR MD Mark Hopwood will be temporarily moving to South Western Railways on 6th January. The current MD, Andy Mellors, is taking up a new post as Managing Director of First Group Non-franchised Services which includes open access and tram services. Mark’s deputy, Matthew Golton, will be covering his role in Great Western. You can find the press release here.

Fares Chaos Rules

We know that the Government and campaigning organisations want to simplify fares. These are some of the “simplifications” that came into effect on 15th December or 2nd January.

  • As already reported some GWR services from Paddington in the evening peak, including those which connect with the Marlow branch, are restricted to holders of anytime and season tickets. If you try to buy tickets online the journey planner will only offer you the restricted trains. The app and web site don't show the cheaper but slower trains.
  • The first weekday off-peak connection from the branch to Paddington is 0846 from Marlow and 0935 from Maidenhead. The GWR online journey planner will not offer this journey. Hint: use Traveline.
  • From 2nd January NFC (“contactless”) travel is available at stations from Reading to Paddington excluding the branches. NFC tickets are valid on both TFL-RAIL and GWR services. They can't be used in conjunction with Railcards or child fares. Journeys commenced before 0930 are charged at the peak fare.
  • Oyster tickets are not valid west of West Drayton.
  • On 2nd January regulated fares rose by an average of 2.7%. Also the 0916 and 0923 weekday departures for Paddington became peak fare.
  • GWR mobile phone e-tickets are not available to and from TfL managed stations (all those from Taplow to Acton Mainline except Slough).
  • Off-peak London Travelcards can’t be put onto GWR Touch cards because the gatelines can’t distinguish between peak and off-peak on Touch, although they can on card tickets.
  • Children aged 5 to 10 years travel free on TFL-RAIL with a Zip photocard but have to pay on GWR. Accompanied under 5s travel free with a fare-paying adult.
  • TfL Freedom Passes can be used on TFL-RAIL but not GWR. Time restrictions apply to 60+ Freedom Passes.
  • Fares into London differ from fares for the same journey away from London.

Take note that consumption of alcohol is banned on all TfL trains, trams and buses.

Footnote We’ve heard that note A in timetable T10 for the 0923 MF departure from Maidenhead to Paddington is wrong. It should say that off-peak tickets will be accepted if you are travelling to Heathrow, so not between Hayes & Harlington and Paddington. It’s difficult to see how this will work because if you book an off-peak return to Heathrow you will be issued with a Zone 1-6 Travelcard, which is valid to Heathrow.

MTR Crossrail Renamed

Crossrail operator MTR Crossrail has renamed itself MTR Elizabeth Line, no doubt at the behest of Transport for London. All existing stationery, publicity material, etc has had to be destroyed.

Overground Service on Boxing Day

This year on Thursday 26 December, services will operate on London Overground for the first time on Boxing Day, from Highbury & Islington to West Croydon and from Clapham Junction to Hackney Wick, complementing existing London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, tram and bus services.

TfL New Year’s Eve Service

There will be free travel on TfL services from 2345 on New Year’s Eve until 0430 on New Year’s Day. TFL-RAIL will be running a 30 minute interval service all night between Paddington and Reading, calling at all stations except Hanwell, West Ealing and Acton Main Line. (TfL Christmas Travel)

December Timetables Available

Printed timetables starting on 15th December are now available at staffed stations. The morning peak service to Paddington loses one train - the 0806. Other services are retimed by a few minutes. The average journey time is reduced by 1 minute, 40 seconds. On the branch, Marlow departures are 06/36, and from Bourne End 16/46.

Evening peak services have given rise to complaints because most GWR departures between 1650 and 1820 are restricted to anytime and season ticket holders. Passengers with off-peak tickets will need to travel on the much slower TFL-Rail services which provide much worse connections to the Marlow and Henley-on-Thames branches. Later on, the GWR services will be faster with fewer stops but the fast services to Maidenhead are withdrawn.

The T10 booklet covering Paddington to Didcot Parkway includes all four branches but excludes MTR services to Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow, so the Greenford branch is left high and dry! TFL-Rail services to Maidenhead and Reading are included. On the main table peak departures are clearly marked with white text on a red background. This has not been carried forward to the branch line tables. Notes and symbols are shown at the end of each section so are difficult to find.

Update: A brief comparison of the up services (Maidenhead to Paddington) shows that we will get five more trains, all after 1656, and average journey times will improve by a disappointing 1.61 minutes. In the down direction we get 9 more services in the morning peak, afternoon and evening, and the journey time improves by a similar amount.

Track Renewal at Furze Platt

GWR Fare Trap

As a result of the timetable changes in December, it appears that fares for some journeys will increase. In particular if a faster service means that the train arrives at Paddington before 10:00 when currently a similar departure arrives after 10:00 you would be charged the anytime fare instead of the off-peak fare.

Crossrail Opening Delayed Again

Crossrail Ltd has announced that the opening date for through running has been put back until at least 2021. The cost estimate has gone up by another £650M. See this Guardian article

Network Rail will be relaying track between Furze Platt station and Half Way (near the end of Long Lane) starting on Sunday 17th November. Replace ment buses will be in operation. The level crossing will bve closed to road traffic including pedestrians from 00:10 on 17th November to 05:30 on 2nd December (continuously). If you drive or walk to the station you will need to approach from the west. Arriva route 37 to High Wycombe will be diverted via Cookham Road during this period.

Twyford Bike Rack ‘Unsafe’

The bike rack on platform 4 it has a major issue where the steel on the upper tier has broken and needs replacing. It has been condemned as unsafe and passengers who lock their bikes up on it are asked to use other parts of the station. GWR admits it has limited areas were they can do this. The lower tier is safe to use.

GWR is trying to get this resolved ASAP and hopefully it will be fixed within the next few weeks.

Update: Our friends at @HenleyTrains advise us that the top tier will be replaced in three to four weeks. The bottom tier is safe to use.

Biggest Timetable Change Since 1976!

GWR is gearing up for the December timetable change on 15th December, which will be the most extensive since 1976. For details please see GWR’s Timetable 2019 page

The timetable is now agreed ahead of the “T-12” (Timetable start minus 12 weeks) deadline after which tickets go on sale. Expect your journey times to change. As a rough guide, morning peak departures from Maidenhead will be at 01/31, off-peak xx20, evening peak 20/50. From Marlow will be at 06/36, xx00 and 24/54 respectively. The last connecting train back from Paddington on weekdays will depart at 2315. Saturday departures will be xx39 from Maidenhead and xx06 from Marlow, and on Sunday xx26 from Maidenhead and xx55 from Marlow. The last branch train on Sundays will be at 2135 from Maidenhead, 2202 from Marlow.

Journey times between London and Maidenhead will be significantly shorter as the new train fleets are allowed to stretch their legs. The fastest run takes 17 minutes (IET from Worcester). Off-peak journey times range between 33 and 43 minutes.

GWR will operate the Paddington - Didcot Parkway service plus fast services to/from Paddington in the peaks. The Paddington - Reading stopping service will be operated by MTR-Crossrail under TFL-Rail branding. Crossrail Ltd hopes to have the central section open by March 2021 (except Bond Street) when trains will be rebranded Elizabeth Line. Tickets will be interoperable.

h2>Cookham Ticket Office Closed on Sats.

We have learnt that Cookham Ticket Office will no longer open on Saturdays, leaving Bourne End as the only staffed station.

Hot Weather Warning - 25 July

GWR has issued a media release, which is on its wesite here, confirming that Network Rail is likely to introduce heat speed restrictions which will mean changes to GWR services, including some cancellations, delays and busier trains. To help we have eased ticket restrictions and we will keep customers updated and will have extra staff at stations, and on our social media teams to support customers.

GWR will be regularly updating its web site with the latest news and will be encouraging customers to check before they travel.

GWR Revamps Customer Panel

Caroline Cummins has been appointed to a new role of Customer Engagement Manager in the GWR Customer Experience team, responsible for the future Customer Panel meetings and ongoing interaction between customers and the business. MMPA is now represented on the Customer Panel. Previously the panel operated independently of user groups and other stakeholders. The team plans to communicate with members through meetings, surveys and on-line quick polls. MMPA will raise members’ issues through the panel and other appropriate channels when necessary.

Marlow Branch Possessions

Crossrail upgrade work relating to Platform 5 at Maidenhead means that GWR will be unable to run branch line trains on the following Sundays: 21/7, 4/8, 11/8, 15/9, 27/9, 13/10, 27/10, 10/11, 17/11, 24/11, 1/12, 8/12 and 15/12.

GWR has started to put in a number of communications and will continue to update them as the weeks go by. These will include station posters, point of sale displays at ticket offices such as Maidenhead, and a slide on the “Transformation Displays” which can be found at Reading and London Paddington.

Bourne End Update

There is a key meeting for the project in the first week of October when the signalling proposal will go to the Network Rail Minor Schemes Review Panel for consideration.  If this goes well GWR will proceed towards submission for Approval In Principle for the scheme.

Langman Appointed NR MD for W&W

Mark Langman has been appointed as Network Rail’s Regional Managing Director for Wales and Western.

GWR Rolls Out Touch Card

GWR Touch Card

GWR is extending its touch smartcard across the region. You can load tickets onto it, including weekly and monthly season tickets, singles, returns and London Travelcards. You need to purchase the ticket first, either online or at a station, then you can touch in and out as with Oyster. Unlike Oyster you can’t put money on the card and it doesn’t charge you automatically for your journey.

So far we understand that only season tickets can be put on the touch card. You can't put tickets onto your touch card via the GWR app. More information here.

Delay Repay 15 on GWR

GWR customers with single, return or weekly tickets are now able to claim compensation for any delay over 15 minutes whatever the cause. Full details of the scheme and how to claim are on the GWR website here

GWR is continuing discussions about compensation arrangements for monthly or longer season tickets holders. The current arrangements will continue for the time being and season ticket holders will retain their existing renewal discounts. It will then move season ticket holders to Delay Repay as performance improves.

You can read the DfT press release here.

High Speed Trains Bow Out

Great Western’s full length High Speed Trains (HSTs) otherwise known as Inter-City 125s will make their final runs in public service on Saturday 18th May. Four trains will be in service on the day and will converge on Paddington between 18:00 and 18:30. HSTs will remain in service with other operators for a while, and GWR will be retaining some shortened HSTs for use in the South-West. The High Speed Train was introduced in 1977 and it transformed long distance services on non-electrified routes.

Timetable Change on 19 May

The new timetable came into force on Sunday 19th May. The branch timetable has only one change that we've spotted: the 1846 Monday to Friday Maidenhead to Bourne End is retimed to depart at 1843 and run three minutes earlier throughout. The Marlow connection is unchanged, as are the Saturday and Sunday services.

Bourne End Modifications

Update: There's yet another twist to the story, and this time things are looking up. Network Rail and GWR have found another layout which seems to meet their requirements with only minor derogations from regulations. This is basically a modification of the original plan with the lines from platforms 1 and 2 towards Marlow joining closer to the station. This would allow trains for Maidenhead to depart from platform 1.

Network Rail will be installing miniature warning lights at the Mill Lane footpath and Upper Thames Sailing Club crossings, followed later by Spade Oak and Calcot Lane crossings. British Transport Polics (BTP) have told us that they will not be calling for further enforcement cameras. At present only Furze Platt crossing has enforcement cameras and the other three road crossings do not have a high level of abuse. BTP would require legislation to support cameras at user worked crossings. They believe that the main problem with these is users not following the instructions and not letting the signaller know when they had cleared the crossing.

New Token Instruments on Order

Network Rail has commissioned four new token instruments to replace the three instruments on the branch (one at Maidenhead and two at Bourne End), plus one spare. This follows a number of reliability problems with the existing (original) Great Western style instruments. The new instruments will look the same but will contain modern electronics which should be a lot more reliable.

Delay Repay 15 on GWR from 1 April

GWR customers with single, return or weekly tickets are now able to claim compensation for any delay over 15 minutes whatever the cause. GWR has been preparing for the change and has invested in new systems to make claiming as easy as possible. Over the next few weeks the company will be contacting customers to let them know about the change. Full details of the scheme and how to claim are on the GWR website here

GWR is continuing discussions about compensation arrangements for monthly or longer season tickets holders. The current arrangements will continue for the time being and season ticket holders will retain their existing renewal discounts. It will then move season ticket holders to Delay Repay as performance improves.

GWR MD Mark Hopwood said “We have wanted to offer our customers simple, consistent, easy to claim compensation for some time and I am delighted that the new scheme is now in place.”

You can read the DfT press release here.

Reading Buses set to Purchase Courtney

Reading Buses is about to purchase Finchampstead based Courtney Buses which provides local services in Maidenhead. The Courtney business will continue as it is for the time being, and will eventually absorb Reading’s outpost at Slough which operates Green Line route 702. Courtney's founder and MD, Bill Courtney-Smith will retire.

Bourne End Modifications

The project to provide two trains per hour all day is making slow progress. A risk assessment has needed to be carried out on all level crossings on the branch because of the extra train movements. Most of the crossings are on the Bourne End to Marlow section and many of these are occupation and user worked crossings which are known to be misused. Some crossings may need miniature warning lights and/or enhanced signage.

Because of the tight curve into Bourne End from Marlow Network Rail has required that platform 1 be used for trains departing towards Marlow because their speed will be lower than when arriving. Although it might seem logical to use the up platform (2) for Maidenhead trains this is less than ideal for several reasons. Most passengers using the station travel towards Maidenhead and the ticket office, waiting room and canopy are on platform 1. Also it means that there is potentially a conflict if trains arrive at the same time (because their paths cross over). In this situation one train would be held outside the station while the other one crossed in front of it. If the platforms were swapped over the conflict could arise on departure so one train could wait in the station while the other departed.

Speed-up in December

GWR is consulting with stakeholders, including ourselves, on the new timetable to be introduced in December 2019. Journey times will be reduced as GWR takes advantage of the performance of its new trains. The speed-up should have happened last December but GWR got caught in the backwash of the Northern/GTR timetable fiasco last May. This year’s May update will be minimal.

The new timetables haven’t been finalised so we can't give details, but MTR-Crossrail will take over the two trains per hour (tph) service between Paddington and Reading (probably still branded as TFL-RAIL) whilst GWR will run 2 tph between Paddington and Didcot Parkway. The alternate stopping pattern (Taplow and Burnham vs Langley and Iver) will continue off-peak. During the peaks, GWR will run fast services between Maidenhead and Paddington with about half calling at Slough. MTR will provide the stopping service on the relief lines.

We are pressing for good connections at Maidenhead between the GWR mainline services and the Marlow branch.

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