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News Archive 2020

Mark Hopwood Returning to GWR

Mark Hopwood will be returning to Great Western Railway on 4th January after a year as Interim Managing Director of South Western Railway.

Matthew Golton, who has been taking care of GWR in Mark’s absence, will be taking up a new opportunity with the First Group’s Rail leadership team. You can read Matthew’s letter here.
[20201204]

New Timetable Starts 13 December

There are a few changes on the branch, in particular the Sunday service starts one hour later. The 11:00 Mon-Fri departure from Marlow has regained its proper timings.
[20201212]

First Group to Lose SWR and Avanti West Coast Franchises

First Group has reached agreement with the government to wind up two franchises: South Western Trains and Avanti West Coast. Both are currently in Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs) in which the government bears the financial risk and pays the operators to run the services. First is currently negotiating direct award contracts under which they will continue to run services once the ERMAs expire.

Great Western Railway already has a direct award contract running through to 2022 with an optional 1 year extension.
[20201211]

Christmas Travel

GWR services will run normally on 23 December. On Christmas Eve late afternoon and evening services will be amended to prepare for the usual closure on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  Heathrow Express trains will run on Boxing Day.

There are no planned closures of London Paddington station, and services to London will operate normally throughout.

Engineering work will affect North Downs services and South Western Railway services between Waterloo and Clapham Junction.

There will be no Chiltern services on Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

TfL-Rail Paddington - Reading

Thursday 24 December: last trains 21:30
Christmas Day: no service
Boxing Day 26 December: no service between Hayes & Harlington and Reading
Sunday 27 December: Sunday service
Bank Holiday Mondat 28 December: bank holiday service
Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 December: reduced service
Thursday 31 December: New Year's Eve (?)
Friday 1 January: bank holiday service
Saturday 2 January: bank holiday service
Sunday 3 January: Sunday service

Track Renewal 14-29 November

No trains will run between Bourne End and Marlow between 14th and 29th November while the track is being renewed. During this time A train service will run Bourne End and Maidenhead. A bus replacement service will operate between Marlow and Bourne End, plus direct buses between Marlow and Maidenhead in peak hours.
[20201105]

Services Continue During Lock-down

GWR will not be making any changes to its current timetable during the national lockdown that started on Thursday 5 November). This means that all school and college services and all the services that take people to and from work will be operating.

To help customers to travel safely, GWR has updated teir Travel with Confidence page on their web site and have included a link on the page to both UK and Welsh Government travel advice and guidance.

GWR’s Head of Public Affairs, Jane Jones told us “I am very happy to help with any specific queries, please email here [via info@mmpa.org.uk please] and we will reply as quickly as we can.

“Thank you again for all the support and good wishes, we are very proud of the work our teams are doing to keep services going and we are here to help if we can.”
[20201105]

Franchises Ending

The Government’s Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs) with the franchises expired on 21st September, to be replaced by Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMAs) which pave the way for ending the franchising system. It is expected that franchises will be replaced by concessions similar to those for Merseyrail and the TfL Overground. The Government will take the financial risk and pay the concessions a management fee to operate the services (possibly with some incentives and penalties).

GWR has had its Direct Award extended until March 2023 with an optional one year extension.
[20200921]

Emergency Measures Extended

First Group has announced the extension of GWR’s Emergency Measures Agreement with the Government until at lease 26th June 2021. This means that services can continure during the pandemic. You can read GWR Acting MD Matthew Golton’s letter here.

Read Evening Standard report here.
[20200901]

Track Renewal Slips

The planned track renewal between Bourne End and Marlow has slipped from November to two possessions in December and January (see below). In the mean time preparatory work, including clearing of vegetation, is continuing.

Network Rail has written to neighbours along the line, including residents in Donkey Lane and users of the Bourne End Marina who will be particularly affected. You can see the letter here (PDF).

One important thing to note is that GWR does not expect online Journey Planners to be correct until 4 weeks prior to the date of travel (as opposed to the usual 12 weeks). This is due to industry-wide implications of the pandemic affecting the timetable delivery timescales.
[20200827]

Shocking Pictures of Crossing Abuse

Little Marlow

Network Rail has issued shocking pictures of members of the public putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk at level crossings on the branch. A child in a push chair was left in the middle of the track at Little Marlow while a photo was taken.

Later the same day a woman with a dog on a lead was kneeling in the middle of the track to take a photo.

Little Marlow

On the Marlow branch line where 16 people have risked their life since March 23, an increase of 433% on the same period last year.

GWR Timetable Update for 6 July

From Monday (6th July) GWR will introducing more services and we will be operating around 84% of our normal timetable. Network Rail has updated online journey planners and customers can check individual journeys on Check Your Journey.

GWR’s teams are now working on a further timetable uplift for September which should bring us back closer to a normal timetable across the GWR network. ... (continue reading).
[20200703]

GWR Timetable Update for 6 July

From 6th July GWR will be running around 84% of their services as compared to the normal timetable - as a comparison, the timetable that came into force on 18th May has around 66% of the usual services running. There’ little change on the branch or to Reading - Paddington services.
[20200610]

GWR Timetable for 18-22 May Published

Great Western Railway has released its timetable for Mon-Fri 18-22 May as PDF document (from Excel). There is no printed version. You can download a copy here (deleted). This is a combined volume and, yes, we have noticed that AT1/AT1R are included twice. GWR anticipates that there will be further phases of timetable improvement as the lockdown ease such as, and further changes to support a return of educational establishments. We anticipate week by week updates.
[20200511]

Bourne End Project Delayed

GWR’s project to run two trains per hour on the branch has received another blow as it has missed the deadline for LEP funding. The project was supported by both Buckinghamshire Thames Valley and Berkshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership. The LEPs now need the funds for other projects.

This doesn’t mean that the project is dead. The LEP Boards still want to support the project but GWR will have to submit a new bid when Approval in Principle has been obtained for its approach. We are astonished to learn that GWR is still waiting for survey work to be completed.

One of the main stumbling blocks has been the signalling solution. Ideally the whole branch should be properly signalled throughout and put on the appropriate workstation at the Thames Valley Signalling Centre (TVSC) at Didcot, but this would need more funding. Failing this Network Rail and GWR need to come up with an acceptable and affordable local solution at Bourne End.

We are as frustrated as GWR is. This is a tiny project by Network Rail standards and has been allowed to drag on interminably. The Victorians would have just done it. Come to think of it, they did.
[20200511]

Hawkins\Brown vision of train shed
Artist’s impression of refurbished engine shed at High Wycombe. (Hawkins\Brown)

New Plan for Brunel’s Engine Shed

Architects Hawkins\Brown (yes, it is a backslash) have won planning consent for the refurbishment and extension of Brunel’s original 1854 engine shed (above) at High Wycombe. The shed was acquired by Wycombe District Council in 2019 after earlier attempts by Chiltern had [cliché alert] hit the buffers.

You can find more information and artists’ impressions here. If you're wondering what CLT and Glulam means it’s Cross-laminated Timber and Glue-laminated Timber.
[20200422]

Off-Peak Rules to be Updated

GWR is to align its off-peak fares rules with Transport for London’s. Within the TfL Rail area off-peak fares will be available for journeys starting at or after 0930 on weekdays. Previously they were available for trains arriving at Paddington at or after 1000.
[20200225]

GWR and DfT Agree 3-Year Direct Award

FirstGroup and the Department for Transport (DfT) have signed a new Direct Award to continue operating GWR from 1 April 2020, when the current agreement comes to an end. This will run for three years, with the option for the government to add a further year and will run concurrently with the six months Emergency Measures Agreement now in place with the DfT.

See the press release.
[20200330]

Government Suspends Rail Franchises

The Department for Transport has suspended all rail operating franchises for six months. The train operators have been given management contracts under which they are paid to operate the services while the Government takes the financial risk. This should have minimal effect on passengers and staff.
[20200323]

May Timetable on Hold?

It looks like the May timetable update is unlikely to take place for some time as services are being planned from week to week. If you need to travel please check with National Rail Enquiries or train operator sites.

May 2020 Timetable

GWR has briefed stakeholders on the May timetable update. There is very little that affects Marlow branch and Maidenhead travellers, but Twyford and Maidenhead station dwell times will be increased for two trains, 0650 and 0716 Didcot Parkway to Paddington (accepting reality). We understand that there will be an additional fast service from Reading to Paddington on weekday evenings.
[20200225]

Update: GWR will be making only minor changes to the Emergency Measures timetable in May, but would like to know if any adjustments are needed in particular to services used by school pupils. Of course there are no promises but if you have any particular issues please let us know.
[20200422]

Services Scaled Back

All operators are reducing their services from Monday 23rd March if not earlier. Please see this message from Matthew Golton, GWR’s Interim Managing Director.

See also the Rail Delivery Group’s message here.
[20200320]

Update: The branch is now running a weekday service with planned cancellations so please check if you have to travel. London Underground is runing a much reduced service with many stations closed. This has led to overcrowding on somme lines in the morning peak, despite pleas for non-essential workers not to travel.
[20200324]

Transport for London

TfL have announced that step-free access is now available at Hanwell, Langley, Iver and Taplow - Press release. Lifts at Taplow were commissioned in December but there have been faults.
[20200312]

TfL has enhanced its cleaning régime in an effort to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Press release.
[20200311]

Furze Platt Parking

The Royal Borough is planning to introduce residents' parking charges in the next budget. This could affect the roads around Furze Platt station. More details when we know.
[20200214]

Wessex Disruption

GWR has advised us that the line between Taunton and Castle Cary will be closed from 14th March to 3rd April for planned engineering work. Diversions and replacement coach services will operate. This will significantly increase journey times.

There will be an amended timetable to and from London Paddington. For more information please visit this page.

New Direct Award Imminent

Great Western Railway and the Department for Trasport are on the verge of agreeing terms for a new Direct Award franchise starting on 1st April. The current direct award ends on 31st March. The only realistic alternative would be a takeover by the “Operator of Last Resort” (i.e. the Government), which the present administration would be keen to avoid.
[20200225]

Overcrowding in the Morning Peak

Please let us have your feedback

We hear reports of “fewer fast trains in the morning peak”. In fact there is only one fewer train than before but it is a critical one which used to start at Twyford. The current 0802 departure from Maidenhead to Paddington starts from Didcot Parkway so is full by the time it gets to Maidenhead. We are trying to get the relief train reinstated.
[20200122]

Update: GWR have replied saying that they cannot find a path to reinstate the relief train because of the increased number of trains from the wider area. Neither will they be able to insert a stop for one of these trains.
[20200202]

Engineering Work This Weekend 22/23 Feb

Network Rail will be carrying out track, signals and telecommunications maintenance at Cookham and Bourne End this weekend. This includes gauging work for Class 769 Flex trains (ex-Thameslink 319s but with diesel engines added) which could be used on the Maidenhead to Bourne End peak services at some time in the future.

At Cookham, Station Hill level crossing will be closed to traffic from 1am and 7am on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd February. Diversions will be in operation. Access to High Road and Station Road will remain open throughout this time. Work will continue after the crossing reopens until 6am on Monday 24th February.

At Bourne End work will take place between midnight and 6 am on Tuesdays 11th and 18th February, and from midnight on 22nd February through to 6 am on Monday 24th. This could cause some disturbance at night but shouldn’t affect road traffic.

Buses will replace trains from Saturday 22nd after the last service on Friday night, and on Sunday 23rd February.

Buses will stop in their usual places except at Cookham where buses will depart from temporary stops on Maidenhead Road. Signage will be in place to direct customers to the correct locations.
[20200128]

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