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News Archive 2021

Regulated Fares Up 3.8% in March

As predicted the Government is raising regulated fares by 3.8% in March. This was the annual rate of inflation in July based on the deprecated Retail Prices Index which gives a higher figure than the more accurate Consumer Prices Index.

We note that the road fuel duty has been frozen for the 11th year in succession, whilst the take-off and landing fees for domestic flights have been halved. This was being planned while the government was hosting the COP25 Climate Conference in Glasgow, and slashing the scope of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. Not only do passengers need a better deal, so does the planet.

Crossrail Trial Operations Begin

The final phase of the programme before the Elizabeth line opens for passenger services is now underway. Trial Operations involves operational exercises to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway for public use and to fully test the timetables. More than 150 scenarios will be carried out over the coming months to ensure the readiness of the railway for passenger service. These include exercises to make sure that all systems and procedures work effectively and staff can respond to any incidents, including customers being unwell or signal failures.

In the new year, a series of more complex exercises will include evacuations of trains and stations using thousands of staff and volunteers. The final step will see a period of “shadow running”, operating timetabled services ahead of the Elizabeth line opening. It will take several months to complete this final complicated phase.

Contactless Travel on the Branch

We are led to believe that a cashless ticket vending machine (TVM) will be installed at Furze Platt and, separately, that NFC ("contactless") travel will be extended from Maidenhead to Marlow for journeys as far as Paddington and Reading. (DHYB)

Update: Mark Hopwood reported at our AGM that a TVM would be installed at Furze Platt. This would be cashless and in view of the CCTV cameras, so should be less vulnerable to vandalism than previous attempts.

TVM base
The base for the TVM next to the booking office.

Half-hourly to Didcot Restored

GWR will be reintroducing its Didcot Parkway to London Paddington services throughout the day, to its half-hourly frequency. From January, it will restore the branch lines in London and the Thames Valley to pre-pandemic frequencies — three trains an hour on the Windsor branch, and half-hourly services on both the Henley and Greenford branches. The Marlow branch keeps its hourly off-peak service as before. (Train Times)


If you’re celebrating the New Year in London (coronavirus permitting) and booking on the GWR App, don’t get caught out. If you search for trains back from Paddington on 31st December, then scroll forwards up to 03:43 (for Maidenhead) you are charged for an off-peak return. However if you enter the return time on 1st January on the “Find times and tickets” page you’ll be charged for two singles, which is nearly twice as much for the same trains.

Christmas Week 27-31/12

A special timetable will operate on the branch.
Trains will depart Maidenhead at:
0525 MX, 0634 - 1534, 1637, 1734 - 2034, 2157, 2250 FX, 2350 FX
and Marlow at:
0606 MX, 0700 - 1600, 1705, 1800 - 2100, 2233, 2316 FX, 0016 TF
MX = Monday excepted, FX = Friday excepted, TF = Tuesday - Friday, - = hourly until.
Normal Saturday service on 01 January.

Face Covering Mandatory Again

Just a reminder that unless you are exempt you need to wear face covering when travelling on all public transport.

Five GWR Services Transfer to TFL

On 12th December five more GWR services between Reading and Paddington transferred to TFL-RAIL. These are the 07:00 and 07:30 from Reading calling additionally at Burnham, West Drayton and Ealing Broadway, and the 17:27, 18:26 and 18:56 from Paddington calling additionally at Ealing Broadway and West Drayton. Journey times will increase by one to two minutes.

Note that TFL-RAIL trains have no toilets and mostly back-to-the-window seating. The changes anticipate the introduction of Elizabeth Line services in 2022, although initially passengers for central London will still have to change at Paddington. The earliest date for through running is now Autumn 2022 (and we know what Modern Railways’s Roger Ford thinks about estimates based on seasons of the year!).

New Service on Chiltern

Chiltern Railways has announced the introduction of an additional service at peak times. The service will run from High Wycombe to London Marylebone every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning starting on 9th Movember and running until the timetable change in December.

It will run non-stop leaving High Wycombe at 07:24 and arriving at Marylebone at 08:00. The introduction of this new service is aimed at reducing the pressure on the 06:43 from Oxford which calls at High Wycombe at 07:30. In recent weeks this service has become increasingly busy especially after calling at High Wycombe.

Battery Trains a Step Nearer

Mark Hopwood confirmed at our AGM that GWR would be trialling a battery powered train with fast charging on the West Ealing to Greenford line. This would appear to be a close fit with Viva Rail’s upcycled D78 District Line trains but other manufacturers could be in the frame. Whatever is selected would eventually be deployed on the Thames Valley branches because the Reading Traincare Depot doesn't want more than one new type to maintain.

Face Covering Compulsory on TfL

Just a reminder that unless you are exempt you still need to wear face covering when travelling on all Transport for London services which comprise Underground, Overground, DLR, Buses, Trams and TFL-RAIL. Whilst not compulsory in England, you are advised to wear masks on other operators’ services, including GWR’s and Chiltern’s.

New Station Manager

We are pleased to welcome Oliver Irwin as GWR’s Maidenhead Area Duty Station Manager.

SouthEastern Stripped of Franchise

The Government’s Operator of Last Resort is to take over running London & South Eastern Railway services from 17th October. This follows the discovery of £25M of taxpayers’ money that wasn’t declared by LSER. Fares, tickets and services will be unchanged.

Northern Line Extension Opened

The new extension to the Northern Line serving Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station opened on September 20th. It is served by trains on the Charing Cross branch which previously terminated at Kennington.

Paddington Crossrail Handed Over

The Elizabeth Line station at Paddington has become the sixth Crossrail station to be handed over to Transport for London. This allows TfL to proceed with final fit-out and testing before the public services begin.

The latest plans ensure the Elizabeth line services from Reading and Heathrow and Shenfield can connect with the central tunnels as soon as possible after the central section opens. The earliest expected date for this is Autumn 2022, with full end to end services no later than May 2023.

Nigel Hunt 1947-2021

We were very sad to hear of the passing of our former chairman and honorary life member, Nigel Hunt, after a short battle with cancer. As well as his involvement with heritage railways and enthusiast groups, Nigel was also the voice of the Henley Regatta (on the PA) for many years. Not a lot of people knew that. He also helped out FGW/GWR at Maidenhead with replacement bus services and with dispatching High Speed Trains (HSTs) when needed. The funeral took place in Slough on Monday (9th August).

tribute to Nigel Hunt

Track Maintenance Work

Network Rail will be carrying out rail improvement work on the Marlow branch line beginning on Wednesday 7th July.

They will be completing track maintenance on the branch line, and this means that on Wednesdays only from 7th July to 4th August inclusive, the 1134 Maidenhead to Marlow service and the 1200 Marlow to Maidenhead service will be operated by buses instead of trains.

GWR Advance Ticket Terms Amended

Advance tickets (which are valid on a specific train only) for travel up to 31st December 2021 can have their date and time changed for free up until 18:00 the day before. If the price of your new ticket is more expensive, you’ll need to pay the difference. You can still change your ticket at any time before you travel, but there will be an admin fee of £10. If you don’t know when your new journey will be, you can ask for a travel voucher instead. This will be valid for 12 months. Off-Peak and Anytime tickets can also be changed free from admin fees, up to the date of departure.

Find out more here.

Please note that you can’t change the origin or destination stations.

Flexible Season Tickets Are Here

The new Flexi Season Ticket, available from 28th June, offers any eight days’ travel in 28 days between two stations. More details here.

Success at High Wycombe

We have been campaigning for a long time to get a signal repeater installed for platform 1 at High Wycombe. This would allow drivers to see when the starter signal is off (showing a proceed aspect) when a short train is stopped near the buffers. At the time of writing the new footbridge obscures the signal so a short train needs to stop sooner, giving passengers a long walk.

Update: The new signalling is now in place and operational. Because there are only two mirrors at the 3 car and 6 car points, passengers on 2, 4 and 5 car trains will still have a short walk, but it’s a big improvement.

Crossrail Starts Trial Running

Crossrail has commenced trial running at four trains per hour through the central section to prove that the railway is safe and reliable. The frequency will be stepped up during the year. Meanwhile three stations have been handed over the TfL: Custom House, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road, and Crossrail is now fully integrated with the Great Western Main Line at Portobello. However, service trains from the west will continue to terminate at Paddington high level for some time. The latest target we have for the opening of Elizabeth Line is “the first half of 2022”. (DHYB)

New Timetables Start Sunday 16 May

The branch timetable is unchanged on weekdays daytime and at weekends. However there are some significant changes on weekday evenings starting with the 20:27 from Maidenhead and 21:01 from Marlow.

Face Covering Still Compulsory

Just a reminder that you still need to wear face covering when travelling by public transport unless you are exempt. Travelling by train is extremely safe but it’s best to avoid crowded services. Hand sanitiser is available at many stations.

Courtney Buses Becomes Thames Valley

As of 7th April Courtney Buses has been rebranded Thames Valley Buses. This follows the acquisition of Courtney’s by Reading Buses in 2019. More information here.

Some IETs Return to Service

All Intercity Express Trains have now been examined and a number are fit to return safely to service. For more details please read the letter from Mark Hopwood which includes the press release issued jointly by Hitachi Rail, Rail Delivery Group, ORR, HM Railway Inspectorate, GWR and LNER.

Update: Hitachi is working on a solution to the problem which involves taking the trains up to their factory at Newton Aycliffe. It is expected to take at least two years for both fleets (GWR and LNER) to be modified. Without attention it is virtually certain that all the IETs will suffer the cracks at some point. In the mean time GWR is able to operate about two thirds of the fleet, which means that some services that are scheduled for ten car trains will only have a single 5-car unit, the 9-car units will be concentrated on the South-West and the Cotswold services will be handled by Class 165/6 turbos.

IETs recalled to depot for checks

All Hitachi Class 80x Intercity Express Trains (IETs) have been withdrawn for precautionary inspection after hairline cracks were found where the yaw damper brackets attach to the coach body. The yaw dampers prevent the bogies hunting from side to side. This affects all operators of these trains including GWR, LNER, Trans-Pennine Express and First Hull Trains. As a result there is severe disruption on the whole of the network. Local and branch line services are unaffected.

TFL-RAIL and local services are running but are busier than normal. More information.

Update: later reports from Hitachi cite the lifting points on the coaches as the location of the cracks. In fact the problems apply to both sites which are fairly close together over the bogies. The cracks under the lifting points were not noticed at first because the paint stretched over them. However it transpires that one unit was stopped back in April. Meanwhile GWR is trying to hire in alternative rolling stock from other parts of the country, including some Class 387s (like the Thames Valley Electrostars) from c-2-c. Also some Class 387s are running as far as Swindon, connecting with Cross Country services to Bristol Temple Meads and the South West.

Contactless Travel on the Branch

We are led to believe that a cashless ticket vending machine (TVM) will be installed at Furze Platt and, separately, that NFC ("contactless") travel will be extended from Maidenhead to Marlow for journeys as far as Paddington and Reading. (DHYB)

Update: Mark Hopwood reported at our AGM that a TVM would be installed at Furze Platt. This would be cashless and in view of the CCTV cameras, so should be less vulnerable to vandalism than previous attempts.

Face Covering Compulsory

The message from Government remains that public transport should be avoided if possible, and from Monday (15th), a face covering has been compulsory when travelling by train. Although a three layer mask is recommended it doesn’t need to be surgical grade.

Elizabeth Smith 1937-2021

We are sorry to report the passing of one of our honorary life members and former member of the Rail Users Consultative Committee, Elizabeth Smith, on 20th January. We send our condolences to her family.

Engineering Work, Sunday March 7

Rail improvement works will betaking place on Sunday 7th March, when Network Rail will be working on the overhead line equipment between London Paddington and Acton Main Line. Completion of the work will help to reduce the impact on services in the event of an incident that requires the power to be turned off.

No trains will be able to run to/from London Paddington on this day. Most long-distance services from across the network will terminate at Reading. Limited local services will run between Reading and Ealing Broadway, operated by GWR and TfL Rail.

Our advice to customers is to travel on an alternative day if possible for a faster and smoother journey. A web page containing more information is available here.

Maidenhead Station Improvement Works

Improvement works on the forecourt of Maidenhead Station get underway this month, as part of the council’s commitment to a programme of improvements in the town. To minimise disruption to residents and passengers, the work will be completed in two phases so that half the forecourt always remains open.

Phase one, which will run from 15th January 2021 until February 2021, will concentrate on the northern half of the station’s forecourt, while phase two will see work being carried out on the southern half, in March and April 2021.

While the work is being carried out, there will be some necessary changes to the area, including:

  • all parking on the forecourt will move to the Stafferton Way multi-storey car park where Great Western Railway (GWR) parking bays will be available to for use on the ground floor (normal parking charges apply)
  • additional set-down and pick-up zones will be available at Stafferton Way multi-storey car park

Throughout both phases of the works, disabled bays will still be available on the station forecourt and the ticket hall and entrance will remain open. Taxis will also still be able to operate from the station forecourt. 

The overall improvement works programme, including the work on the forecourt, was largely paid for with £3.75M in funding from the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, through its Local Growth Deal with Government, with the original business case having been approved by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Transport Body on in November 2017.

The full plans can be seen here (PDF).

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Last updated 9th March, 2022