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News Archive 2004 – 2005

First Group Wins Greater Western Franchise

Improvements promised for Thames Valley

The Department for Transport has awarded both the Greater Western and Thameslink/Great Northern franchises to First Group which currently operates our local services. The new franchises start on 1st April 2006, but service changes will not come into effect until the December 2006 timetable change.

The First Great Western services will be rebranded First Great Western Express but the Link branding will remain unchanged. Wessex trains will become First Great Western Local.

The promised changes affecting our area are (extracted from First Group's press release):

  • Introduction of additional peak stopping train between Paddington and Slough, running every half hour
  • Reinstatement of off peak calls at Slough in fast London/Oxford/North Cotswolds services
  • Half hourly off peak services on the Windsor branch line to provide good connections with non-stop trains to and from London
  • Additional morning and evening peak services for Twyford, Maidenhead and Slough
  • Faster off peak journeys between London and Twyford/Maidenhead
  • Additional morning through service from Henley to London, returning in the evening
  • A new waiting facility at Slough including new toilets, waiting areas and refreshment facilities. Additionally, covered cycle storage, upgraded ticket office and booking hall and refurbishment of the subway
  • New toilets and improved disabled access and facilities at Burnham
  • Improved waiting areas including toilets and refreshment kiosks at Maidenhead along with refurbishment of the subways and ticket office with a new ticket counter and information points and improved lift access
  • Refurbishment of footbridge at Twyford with additional CCTV and new help points.

Other highlights include:

  • Re-engining and interior refurbishment of HST sets.
  • Improvements to Turbo units including installation of CCTV and air conditioning in cabs.
  • Improvements to station facilities including car park spaces, cycle stands, CCTV and help points.
  • New ticket issuing technology.
  • Retention of overnight sleeper services between London Paddington and Plymouth/Penzance.
  • All day half hourly services between Paddington, Bristol and Cardiff maintained.
  • Reading-Gatwick service increased from hourly to half-hourly off peak.
  • Network Rail to upgrade the line between Reading and London in order to improve the line speed creating greater capacity, reliability and improved journey times.
  • Improved connections; greater emphasis on integrated travel.

We look forward to seeing these improvements come to fruition.
[20051213]

Christmas and New Year Alterations

First Great Western Link

On Christmas Eve the last trains serving our stations will be the 2130 from Reading to Paddington (Twyford 2136, Maidenhead 2144, Taplow 2137, Burnham 2148) and the 2203 from Paddington to Reading (Burnham 2232, Taplow 2235, Maidenhead 2239, Twyford 2247). The last branch trains are the 2142 from Twyford to Henley-on-Thames and 2220 return, and the 2143 from Maidenhead to Marlow and 2209 return.

A Saturday service will operate on FGWL from December 27th to 31st and on Bank Holiday Monday, January 2nd.

On Sunday 1st January there will be additional trains from Paddington to Reading at 0200, 0300, 0400, 0430 and 0500 serving Burnham, Maidenhead and Twyford. A normal Sunday train service will then follow.

Chiltern Railways

On Christmas Eve the last trains from High Wycombe are 1950 to Birmingham Snow Hill, 2022 to Marylebone and 2131 to Aylesbury (2050 from Marylebone). Last arrivals are 1910 from Snow Hill (arr. 2101) and 1950 from Stratford (arr. 2133).

There will be no service on Boxing Day. A reduced weekday service will operate on December 27th and a slightly reduced weekday service from December 28th to 30th.

A normal Saturday service will operate on December 31st up to 2140 from Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill (High Wycombe 2214), then 2150 and 2218 to Aylesbury (2231, 2306), 2245 to Banbury (2320), 2310 to Bicester North (2348), 2314 to Aylesbury (0001), 2345 to Banbury (0020), 0030 to Aylesbury (0120), 0100 to Banbury (0135), 0135 and 0245 to Aylesbury (0225 and 0335).

On New Year's Day there will be early departures from Marylebone as shown above, followed by a normal Sunday service.

A Saturday service will operate on Monday January 2nd. Full timetables are available on the Chiltern Railways web site.
[20051212]

Stagecoach Out

We understand that Stagecoach is now out of the running for the new Greater Western Franchise. [20051209]

New Timetables

The new timetables start on 11th December 2005. The basic service pattern remains the same but many timings have been altered by between one and four minutes. In the mornings branch trains have been retimed one or two minutes earlier, and in the evenings they run between zero and four minutes later. The 0746 Maidenhead to Bourne End is replaced by the 0722 Reading to Bourne End calling at Twyford (0729), Maidenhead 0737-0739 and thence 7 minutes earlier to Bourne End. The daytime off-peak and Saturday service runs one minute earlier than before, but the Sunday service is unchanged. Some connecting times at Reading and Paddington have changed. (further analysis)

On the Henley branch early morning weekday trains have been retimed and some connecting times are different. Otherwise the branch service is unchanged.

Timetable booklets and pocket timetables are available from manned stations, and there is now a pocket timetable covering both the Marlow and Henley-on-Thames branch lines.
[20051206]

DfT Extends FGW Franchise

The Department for Transport has extended First Great Western's (FGW's) franchise agreement from 4th February until 31st March, 2006. This will take them up to the start of the new Greater Western Franchise. This brings FGW into line with the Wessex Trains and First Great Western Link which will also be subsumed into the new franchise.
[20051025]

Foxall Confirmed as RPC Chairman

The Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, today announced the appointment of Colin Foxall CBE as Chairman of the new Rail Passengers Council (RPC). His appointment commenced on 23rd September and is for a period of 4 years.

Colin Foxall is currently Acting Chair of the Rail Passengers Council and a Member of the British Transport Police Authority. He is a non-executive director of Radian Asset Assurance Ltd and was Chairman of the Regional Rail Passengers Committee for Wales from 2004 to 14,000 pa. He has previously held posts as deputy chairman of the former NCM Group in Amsterdam, as CEO of its Cardiff based UK Company and as under-Secretary at the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD). He is a former Dutch Consul in Wales and in 1995 was appointed a CBE.
[20050927]

FGWL Announces Additional Capacity

First Great Western Link has announced that some rush hour trains between Twyford, Maidenhead and Paddington are to be strengthened as from 19th September. The extra units became available when the Class 360 electric units took over the Heathrow Connect service in June. The details are as follows:

Mondays-Fridays from 19th September 2005
Reading Twyford Maidenhead Paddington From To
06560702071007403 car5 car
---- OXF----07270745Cl. 180HST
07300736074408243 car5 car
07360742075008373 car5 car
0755 BED0801080908425 car6 car
Bourne End 0803081508583 car4 car
0825 NEW0831083909123 car5 car
Paddington Maidenhead Twyford Reading From To
16331711171917273 car5 car
16551738174617533 car5 car
17551837184518533 car6 car
18251908191618243 car5 car
18551937194519533 car5 car
19061927----1938 OXF3 car5 car

BED = from Bedwyn, NEW = from Newbury, OXF = to/from Oxford

All services on the Windsor branch will be operated by a 3-car unit. [2005-08-24]

Chiltern Line Re-opens

The Chiltern Railways service via Gerrard's Cross in now back in operation. [2005-08-22]

MMPA Responds to SRA Franchise Consultation Document

The MMPA's response the the Greater Western Franchise Consultation Document can be found here (since deleted). [2005-07-26]

FGW Grandparents' Day £10 Ticket Offer

First Great Western and First Great Western Link are celebrating National Grandparents' Day with a two-day ticket promotion, offering tens of thousands of seats for just £10 return. The £10 fare is valid on all of the TOCs' services on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 September. They allow customers return travel anywhere on the lines in South West England, South Wales, the Thames Valley, London, the North Downs and the Cotswolds for the same flat fare. With each £10 adult fare, up to four children aged between five and 15 can travel for just £1 each. As usual, under-fives travel free. At least two adults or one adult and one child must travel together. The offer allows grandparents who live in the same area as their grandchildren to spend a day out together while for families who live some distance apart, the £10 flat fare makes it easy and cheap to pay a visit for the special weekend. The £10 tickets are only on sale at stations in the First Great Western and First Great Western Link region. Reservations, which are compulsory, can be made until 18.00 on the day before travel and customers must travel on the services on which they have made reservations. The £10 flat fare covers Standard Class return travel, but families wishing to treat themselves can take advantage of the companies' normal Weekend First upgrade to First Class for just £10 each way per person, subject to availability. Please note some engineering work is taking place over the weekend, and customers are advised to check their journey arrangements before taking advantage of the offer. more information

Engineering Work July 23rd - 29th

Maidenhead - Slough

From 2000 Saturday to 0535 Monday, there will be engineering work between Slough and Maidenhead, with only one of the four running lines being in use from 2130 Saturday to 0930 Sunday. During this time, there will be a reduction in the number of services over the affected route, with many services not operating their full journey. On Saturday night and throughout Sunday, trains will not stop at Burnham and Taplow, which will be served by replacement buses.

There will be a replacement bus service between Hayes & Harlington and Reading on Sunday morning. From 2210 Monday to Thursday to 0535 Tuesday to Friday, engineering work between Slough and Reading will result in two of the four running lines being closed. As a result, trains will not serve Burnham and Taplow stations, which will be served by a replacement bus service operating between Slough and Maidenhead.

Twyford ­ Henley-on-Thames

From Tuesday to Friday, the 0011 service from Henley-on-Thames to Reading will terminate at Twyford due to engineering work between Slough and Reading. Customers will need to change at Twyford for a connecting service to Reading. [FGWL]

Engineering Work: Slough-Reading

From 20:00 on Saturdays 6th and 13th August, and Sundays 7th, 14th and 21st August 2005

First Great Western Link train services will not call at Burnham and Taplow, with road replacement transport calling between Burnham and Slough. First Great Western train services between London Paddington and the West of England will be diverted via an alternative route not calling at Newbury and Pewsey. Journey times will be extended by up to 25 minutes (Alternative timetable).

Nice Touch!

Within hours of the IOC's announcement Eurostar has named one of its power cars London 2012 during a ceremony at Waterloo International. The power car, with its train, was immediately dispatched on a service to Paris. Nothing like rubbing it in!

One must assume that another power car and name plates, plus appropriate dignitaries, were ready at Gare du Nord in case the decision went the other way. Of course Eurostar would benefit either way. [2005-07-21]

Crossrail Bill Gets Second Reading

The Crossrail Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 19th July, signifying the House's approval of the project in principle. The Bill will now go before a Select Committee that will consider any petitions against it. During the second reading debate Maidenhead MP, Theresa May, made strong representations about the deterioration of services from Maidenhead and Twyford, and in particular the loss of fast services.

Petitions must be delivered by hand to the House of Commons Private Bill Office in Portcullis House by 16th September 2005. During the Summer Recess the Private Bill Office will be open from 1100 until 1500 on weekdays. The telephone number is 020 7219 3250. Information about how to petition can be found here. [2005-07-20]

FGWL Station Refurbishment

First Great Western Link has announced a £240k station refurbishment programme. Stations affected in our area are Bourne End, Cookham, Henley-on-Thames, Maidenhead, Taplow and Twyford. More information. [2005-07-15]

"Tesco Tunnel" Collapse Closes Chiltern

The partial collapse of a "tunnel" being constructed over the Chiltern line at Gerrards Cross closed the line to all services yesterday (Thursday). The line is being roofed over to provide space for a Tesco supermarket above the tracks. [2005-07-01]

tunnel collapse
Photo by Dennis Troughton for Oxford-Chiltern Bus Page. Link on photo displays a larger image.

Latest: An emergency timetable is operating from 4th July. 400 extra parking spaces have been provided at Denham. A half hourly shuttle is being operating between Denham and Marylebone, and hourly between Beaconsfield and Princes Risborough. Birmingham services diverted via Amersham and Aylesbury to Princes Risborough. Various relief bus services have been arranged. Chiltern tickets are no longer being accepted by other operators. More information. [2005-07-04,31]

29 concrete arch units (about 30 metres) of the 320m tunnel collapsed onto the track around 80m from the southern end, allowing some 5,000 tonnes of spoil up to 6m deep to fall onto the track. The collapse was noticed by the driver of the 1740 Stratford-upon-Avon to Marylebone on Thursday 30th June, and fortunately no-one was hurt. No timescale has been given for the resumption of services, but it is likely that they will be disrupted for several weeks. Obviously it will be necessary to determine the cause of the failure and to make sure that what remains of the tunnel is safe. [2005-07-05]

More Photos

You can see some impressive photos of the collapse and subsequent recovery of the railway on Guy Gorton's Website.

The Reinforced Earth Company site shows the same type of precast cut-and-cover used in Australia.

Paddington Open Day - July 15th

FGW is holding a customer open day at Paddington Station on Friday 15th July, including tours behind the scenes at half-hourly intervals from 0930. You can find more information here. To book on one of the tours you need to e-mail First Group as soon as possible. [2005-07-07]

WiSPA Meeting

The Windsor & Slough Passenger Association (WiSPA) held its second meeting on 4th July at the Windsor Leisure Centre. It was well attended and three representatives of First Great Western were on hand, as well as local councillors and press. The main concern expressed was the deterioration of te service since 12th December and the likely further deterioration which could result from the Strategic Rail Authority's (SRA's) service specification in the Invitation to Tender for the Greater Western franchise.

The bidders are required to quote against a defined Monday to Saturday daytime service based on specified departure times from Paddington. Although they can put forward alternative timetables and service levels, bidders expect that the new franchise will be awarded on the basis of lowest cost for the baseline service.

The main stipulations which concern WiSPA are:

  • Segregation in Mon-Fri peak hours of the two pairs of tracks between Paddington and Reading with exclusive use of the main lines by trains running at 125 mph to improve performance and minimise the consequences of delay.
  • Withdrawal of Slough stops from main line services in order to achieve performance improvements for the majority of users.

In other words Slough customers are being sacreficed for minimal gains for longer distance passengers. Despite the deterioration already experienced Slough passengers still have to pay disproportionately higher fares on the basis of the former better service. The FGW representatives saw no justification for the premium to continue.

Because First Group is in the process of bidding for the Greater Western franchise it is not in a strong position to pressure the SRA over customers' concerns. It is therefore imperative that customers put presure on the government via their MPs to improve the base specification. The functions of the SRA are being transferred to the Department for Transport in stages from the end of this month. [2005-07-05]

First Names HST Power Cars

First Great Western held a naming ceremony at Swindon on Thursday 30th June for it's first re-engined High Speed Train (HST) power car, 43009, which was accepted into service on June 7th. The power car is one of two which have recently been fitted with new MTU 16V 4000 engines at a cost of £1.5 million. It is the first time engines of this type have powered vehicles in the UK, offering greater efficiency and reliability, plus lower sound levels and emissions. The second re-engined power car, 43004, will be named at Cardiff in July and others are planned to follow.

First Group leases the HST sets from Angel Trains who worked with Brush Traction, Loughborough and MTU, Friedrichshafen to replace the engines as part of the project to extend the life of the trains until 2012 or beyond. Angel is also believed to be re-equipping 43179 with the latest Paxman Valenta engine for direct comparison.

Meanwhile the Transport Secretary Alastair Darling has told the Railway Forun that he expected tenders for the HST Replacement Programme, HST2, to be going out by mid-2006. He also called for new research into double-deck coaches, which is about the most gnat-brained idea we've heard for a long time. Some of us can still remember the 4-DDs :-(

The names are so completely naff that we haven't included them here. [2005-06-30]

Acting Chair for RPC

Colin Foxall CBE has been appointed Acting Chairman of both the existing Rail Passengers Council (RPC) and the new RPC, which is due to come into existence at the end of July. He is Chairman of the Rail Passengers Committee in Wales and a non-executive director of Radian Asset Assurance Ltd.

Colin Foxall replaces Stewart Francis, who resigned recently as the Chairman of the existing and new RPC due to ill health. The recruitment campaign to identify a new Chair for the new organisation began earlier this month and an appointment is expected by the end of the summer.

The DfT Press Release can be found here. [2005-06-28]

New Chairman for Commission for Integrated Transport

Alistair Darling has appointed Peter Hendy as the new chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport, succeeding Prof. David Begg. You can see the DfT news release here.

Bus Quality Indicators Published

DfT has published its quarterly statistics on passenger satisfaction, bus reliability and age of fleets for 2005 Q1. You can view the press release here. In brief, one bus journey in five is thought unsatisfactory and 30% are poor value for money.

ATOC Publishes 10-year Startegy View

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has published a rail strategy discussion document which can be downloaded from the ATOC Communications web site: PDF (950 kbytes). The associated Press Release can be found here (html). The document discusses the projected growth of transport usage over the next ten years and ways of dealing with the capacity shortfall. This includes "congestion charging" by increasing fares for the busiest trains, possibly using smart card technology. ATOC wants to remove the franchise requirement to run underused services and to keep open underused stations where they impact capacity. [2005-06-21]

Greater Western Franchise

The SRA has published its consultation document for the new Greater Western franchise which integrates the present Great Western, Great Western Link and Wessex areas. It can be downloaded in PDF (336 kbytes). Responses are required by 2nd August. This and other SRA documents can also be found on the SRA web site.

WiSPA It Not ...

A meeting to inaugurate the Windsor-Slough Passenger Association (WiSPA) is being held at Windsor Leisure Centre 4 on Monday July 4th at 20:00 hrs. The association will represent FGWL customers on the Slough to Windsor & Eton Central branch. For more details please contact Elizabeth Bowden.

Heathrow Connect Started on 12th June

The electric Heathrow Connect service between Paddington and the Heathrow Central Terminal Area (CTA) started with the new timetable on 12th June, replacing the current Paddington - Hayes - empty to Slough diesel service. Normal tickets including railcards can be used between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington. There is a premium fare for the airport branch and railcards are not valid for this part. Some passengers may prefer to continue to use the existing 140 bus between Hayes and the CTA. [20050527]

Postscript: There were some teething problems with the buffers in the headshunt at Heathrow during the first week, which resulted in trains being turned round at Hayes. We understand that the service is now running smoothly.

SRA Backs Down on Community Railway Status

Local MP Theresa May met the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) in Westminster on Monday to discuss its plans for the future of the Maidenhead-Marlow and Twyford-Henley branch lines. She explained: "Following a successful campaign by myself and the local community the SRA has decided not to designate either of our branch lines as Community Railways. This is excellent news which I welcome.

"I believe that both the Maidenhead-Marlow and Twyford-Henley lines are unsuitable for such designation - indeed they don't even meet the SRA's own criteria for community railways! Having met the Transport Minister earlier this year and presented a petition in Parliament I am decided that the SRA has backed down on this issue.

"However I am concerned that both of these lines remain of the list of routes which are believed to be potentially suitable for designation as "Community Railways." Essentially there has been no change in their status. Moreover in a slap in the face for local residents the SRA is putting these lines on the back-burner with no plans for any improvements.

"I am determined to ensure that these lines are seen as what they are: integral parts of the mainline network, well-used by local people but in need of improvement. It is unacceptable that local people be presented with a choice between accepting Community Rail Status or accepting no changes whatsoever. Local people deserve neither re-designation nor inaction; they deserve real improvements. This is what I shall campaign for." [20050523]

Borough Bus Routes Revised

The Borough Bus routes 6 to 9 operated by Courtney Coaches on behalf of the Royal Borough have been revised and new timetables are in force as of 23rd May. Route 8 is abolished. Route 6 now runs to Cranbrook Drive instead of Woodlands Park, and there are expanded services on routes 7A amd 7B between Woodlands Park and Halifax Road. [20050523]

Crossrail Bill Reintroduced

On April 7th motions were passed in both Houses of Parliament allowing the Crossrail Bill to be carried over to the new Parliament following the general election. As a result, the Bill was reintroduced into the House of Commons on 18th May 2005. No date has yet been set for Second Reading of the Crossrail Bill, but the current expectation is that it would take place in mid to late June. More information is available on the Crossrail and DfT sites. [20050518]

Thameslink now relinked

Through Thameslink services have now been reinstated following engineering work on St. Pancras Midland Road station which will eventually replace Kings Cross Thameslink. [20050516]

Annual General Meeting

The Association's AGM was held on Friday 18th March at Bourne End. A report can be found here (since deleted). [20050320]

Spring Newsletter

The Spring Newsletter, no 128, has been posted to members and its can be viewed here. Readers looking for the Cookham Society's proforma letter can find it here (Obsolete link deleted). This is a text file which you can drop into any word processor or DTP program. Note that the file will open in your browser window so please use the "save target as" or equivalent menu option on the above link to save the file to disc.

Timetable Change

The 0727 Bourne End to Paddington has been retimed to arrive at Paddington at 0814 instead of 0808 as shown in FGWL's public timetable. The change was made because of platform scheduling problems at Paddington in the December 2004 timetable. We understand that this service calls at Acton Main Line and routinely arrives at 0812.

It appears that the 2344 Maidenhead-Marlow and return has been put back to 2346 (Monday-Thursday) so that it now connects with the 2330 from Reading and 2257 from Paddington. Our Branch Timetable reflects these and the changes made on January 31st (see below).

Crossrail Could Mean Worse Service for Branch

Nicholson CentreA team from Crossrail provided an information display about the proposals in the Nicholson Centre in Maidenhead on Friday 11th February. The plans include significant changes to the layout, with six stabling sidings in the former goods yard and two reversing sidings between the relief lines. The up relief will be realigned to run into platform 5. There will be a new bay platform (6) for the Marlow branch which will mean that all passengers will have to change platforms via the subway.

The service pattern will be four trains an hour on Crossrail plus two trains an hour to and from Reading or beyond. This means a worse service for passengers heading west. At most there could be one through train from Bourne End to Paddington in the morning, but none back in the evening. Crossrail trains will comprise two two five-car units and will run through to Shenfield or Abbey Wood.

Combined Bus and Train Ticket for Slough Area

First Group has announced a Bus & Rail Card which allows unlimited travel on First bus services in the Maidenhead, Slough, Windsor and Eton areas, and on FGWL train services between Maidenhead and Langley, and on the Windsor branch. The price is £6 for one day and £24 for a seven day ticket.

The ticket is available from bus drivers and station ticket offices in the area. It does not cover the Marlow branch and is not available with an add-on fare from branch stations. It is not valid on Arriva, Carousel or Courtney Coaches routes.

the full text of the FGWL press release can be found here

SRA Man Defends Community Rail Strategy

Chris Austin, the executive director in charge of Community Rail Development at the Strategic Rail Authority has defended the plans for the Maidenhead-Marlow line. In a letter to the Maidenhead Advertriser he writes: "The purpose of the community Rail Development Strategy is to put these lines on a sustainable basis for the long-term future by increasing the number of passengers using these lines, reducing the costs of the railway and greater involvement of the local community. ...

"It may mean improving the traditional signalling arrangements on the line which are simple and reliable but slow and prevent Marlow passengers having a through peak service to Maidenhead and beyond. ...

"None of this will happen without local support and we will consult before designating the line."

This did not cut any ice with local politicians. Cllr Cathy Newbound, prospective Lib-Dem parliamentary candidate, said: "Whilst in some areas the concept of community railways may be a very attractive and plausible option, here our local branch lines play a key rôle in travel. I believe that community involvement is an excellent thing but not for this type of railway line. Commuter lines need to remain part of the main rail structure."

Meanwhile Maidenhead's MP, Theresa May (Con.) is continuing to press for action on overcrowding on trains since the introduction of the new timetables in December.

Comment: The lack of a through peak service is not just down to the vintage signalling. It is necessitated by the layout at Bourne End and the fact that platform 1 and the Marlow platform could not take more than a three-car unit. In fact the platform equipment is positioned for a single two-car unit. Longer trains are needed to provide the peak capacity between Bourne End and Maidenhead. As there are no passing loops on the line the service must be operated in two parts in order to provide a half-hourly service.

FGWL Announces Timetable Changes

First Great Western Link has announced minimal changes to services from Monday 31st January in response to numerous complaints. The only difference for Maidenhead passengers is an additional stop on the 1906 Mon-Fri London Paddington to Oxford at 1926.

Twyford passengers will get additional seats on the 0727 to Paddington which is increased to a 10-car Adelante. In addition for the duration of the current timetable passengers for Twyford and the Henley branch can travel via Reading at times of disruption.

The full text of FGWL's press release can be found here

Borough Experts Reject Community Rail Plan

A Royal Borough report published in January recommends that the Cabinet does not back the scheme to downgrade the area's busiest lines. The report stresses that the Marlow and Henley branches are an integral part of the main line service, acting as feeder services to the wider network.

Speaking in a parliamentary debate on the community railways policy, Maidenhead MP Theresa May said: "The lines are heavily used in peak hours and it would not be appropriate to designate them as community railways.

"The Strategic Rail Authority.s consultation paper on the proposals suggested that a community rail partnership would not be suitable for high-frequency railways; in fact, it designated as suitable low-frequency railways with hourly or less frequent services."

The cabinet member for transport and traffic management, Cllr. John Iles, said: "The two rail links are lifelines for thousands of commuters and travellers. To put them on the hit list for withdrawal of funding and downgrading to community lines shows a worrying disregard for the travelling public."

Bank Holiday Engineering Work

The lines between Twyford and Slough will be closed over the May Day bank holiday weekend, 30th April to 2nd May, for engineering work, and a replacement bus service will operate. There will be a shuttle service between Slough and Paddington. Oxford services will run to and from Twyford whilst Newbury and Bedwyn services will start and finish at Reading. Branch line services will operate but will be retimed to connect with the replacement bus or amended train services. For full details please see the FGWL Site.

Easter Travel

A Saturday service will operate on the Marlow and Henley branches on both Good Friday and Easter monday.

Urgent Timetable Review Sought

Maidenhead MP, Theresa May has received hundreds of complaints about longer journey times, shorter trains and overcrowding since the introduction of new timetables in December. As a result of a meeting with Mrs May, First Great Western's Managing Director, Alison Forster promised to look into the issues raised and to come up with specific proposals to improve the situation.

Community Rail Meeting

The Association is planning an open meeting during April or May to discuss the implications of the Community Railways Scheme with the Strategic Rail Authority and interested parties. Details will appear here and on our home page when firmed up.

Annual General Meeting

The Association's AGM will be held on Friday 18th March in the small hall of the Bourne End Community Centre (see map), starting at 8pm. This is a chance to air your views and meet local transport managers. The meeting is open to both members and non-members. Please come along and make it a success.

Trains arrive at Bourne End at 19:32 from Maidenhead (19:21) and 19:33 from Marlow (19:26), giving you plenty of time to walk to the Community Centre and have a chat before the meeting.

"Misery and Mayhem"

That seems to be the general consensus about the new timetables which started on December 12th. Passengers have complained about longer journeys, overcrowded trains and mix-ups. On Monday morning the 0727 Bourne End to Paddington failed to pick up passengers at Cookham and Furze Platt. Maidenhead's MP Theresa May has been inundated with complaints about the new service.

Crossrail - New Spanner in the Works

A new cross-London rail scheme has been put forward by former Inter-City boss John Prideaux. Superlink is an enhanced version of the Crossrail scheme which will extend further at the extremities, serving Reading in the west and Stansted and Cambridge in the east. The cost of such a scheme would be higher but the long term funding requirement would be lower. However as no funding has yet been committed for the existing Crossrail scheme which has been stalled at the buffers for a decade, consideration of the new plan could further delay implementation.

Rural Railways Strategy - Borough Under Fire

The Conservative transport spokesman, Cllr. Derek Wilson has criticised the Borough for not lodging its objections to the government's Rural Railways Strategy and for delays in addressing the problems created by the new timetables. Although the Royal Borough is not listed among the respondents to the consultation document, Deputy Leader Simon Werner (Lib-Dem) said that John Iles, cabinet member for transport, had attended a meeting with the Strategic Rail Authority and had put the Council's views at that meeting.

MMPA Newsletter Now Online

Our Winter 2004 Newsletter is now available on the web site in html and Microsoft Word formats. We hope to provide future newsletters shortly after publication. Association members will continue to receive printed Newsletters by post, accompanied by timetable booklets and other useful material as available.

Heathrow Connect Update

"Heathrow Connect" is the branding for the new local service between Paddington and Heathrow. The service is a joint venture between First Great Western and BAA. The trains for the service have been built by Siemens at their Krefeld-Ürdingen plant and commissioned at the Wildenrath test track in Germany. The initial order was for four 4-car Desiro 25kv AC electric multiple units which are designated Class 360/2. However an additional 5-car unit has now been ordered and the existing units will be strengthened to five cars. The units are similar to the Great Eastern Class 360/1 units. Travellers via Reading will be familiar with South West Trains's Class 444 and 450 DC versions.

The Heathrow Connect service takes over the paths previously occupied by the Slough local trains, the disappearance of which is partly responsible for the longer journey times from Maidenhead to the capital. Pending the introduction of the new service FGWL is operating a diesel service between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington. Quite why this service does not operate to Slough in lieu of Heathrow is anyone's guess, but I put it down to total inertia. The Heathrow service was intially planned to start in December 2004 so the interim service is just running in the planned paths.

Trains will not be advertised at Paddington as going to Heathrow. This sort of deliberate misinformation will be familiar to passengers looking for Reading and Oxford trains, eventually working out that they are advertised as terminating at Twyford or Radley. It is expected that a premium fare will be charged between Hayes and the airport, and that Travelcards will not be available over this section. Between Hayes and Paddington the trains will provide a normal local service.

Prior to the opening of Terminal 5, the Heathrow Connect (HCon) service will operate to Heathrow Central (T1-2-3) only and passengers for Terminal 4 can transfer to Heathrow Express (HEx) for the remainder of the journey. Eventually the HEx service will serve Central and T5, while (HCon) will continue to T4. In between the half hourly London service there will be a shuttle service between T4 and Central. Passengers from Maidenhead will have a cross-platform change at Hayes & Harlington.

Various dates between March and July 2006 have been quoted for the start of the new service. We expect to see trial running imminently, and the full service to be introduced with the summer timetable in June. The new trains will be based at the Heathrow Express depôt at Old Oak Common and will be maintained by Siemens.

Piccadilly Line Changes

To facilitate construction of the Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow Terminal 5, the station at Terminal 4 will close from 7th January for about 20 months. Trains will then operate to termianls 1-3 only. passengers for Terminal 4 can use a bus shuttle service from Hatton Cross or the Heathrow Express from T1-3, both at no extra cost. Passengers should allow an additional 10 to 15 minutes for the journey to T4, but those going to T1-3 will save five minutes. When T5 opens three trains in four will operate to T1-3 and T5 whilst the fourth will go round the T4 loop as previously. The trains serving T4 will lay over at T4 rather than at T1-3.

Fare Increases

First Great Western Link has announced fare increases that will apply from Sunday 2nd January 2005. Regulated fares such as season tickets, day returns and saver fares will rise by 4%, with cheap day and first class fares up by at least 4%. FGW fares will increase by between 1% for First Class Apex and Super Advance tickets, and 4% for regulated fares.

"Misery and Mayhem"

That seems to be the general consensus about the new timetables which started on December 12th. Passengers have complained about longer journeys, overcrowded trains and mix-ups. On Monday morning the 0727 Bourne End to Paddington failed to pick up passengers at Cookham and Furze Platt. Maidenhead's MP Theresa May has been inundated with complaints about the new service.

Crossrail - New Spanner in the Works

A new cross-London rail scheme has been put forward by former BR manager John Prideaux. Superlink is an enhanced version of the Crossrail scheme which will extend further at the extremities, serving Reading in the west and Stansted and Cambridge in the east. The cost of such a scheme would be higher but the long term funding requirement would be lower. However as no funding has yet been committed for the existing Crossrail scheme which has been stalled at the buffers for a decade, consideration of the new plan could further delay implementation.

Rural Railways Strategy - Borough Under Fire

The Conservative transport spokesman, Cllr. Derek Wilson has criticised the Borough for not lodging its objections to the government's Rural Railways Strategy and for delays in addressing the problems created by the new timetables. Although the Royal Borough is not listed among the respondents to the consultation document, Deputy Leader Simon Werner (Lib-Dem) said that John Iles, cabinet member for transport, had attended a meeting with the Strategic Rail Authority and had put the Council's views at that meeting.

Winter Timetables Now Available

The FGWL winter timetables, valid from 12th December 2004 until 11th June 2005, can now be downloaded in PDF from the FGWL Web Site.

The branch timetable is as in the draft timetable except that the first train is now shown as in service from Maidenhead, but setting down only at Furze Platt, Cookham and Bourne End. Some main line trains have been retimed, leading to some narrowly missed connections and longer journeys. For example the 2320FX Reading - Paddington has been put back to 2330, arriving at Maidenhead at 2344. The branch train leaves at 2344 so the last advertised connection is now the 2300 Reading - Paddington, with a 30 minute wait at Maidenhead.

These documents seem to have been put together rather hastily as some contain crop marks and the Maidenhead - Marlow Weekdays document had the weekend return service instead of the weekday one. This was seiftly corrected after we pointed out the error. A useful innovation is showing Monday-Thursday and Friday evening services separately (as on our branch line timetable) rather than having lots of FO and FX annotations. The MO and MX headnotes are retained but the MO and MX columns are now grouped together.

The London - Reading timetable shows a headnote "G" for Greenford trains (although that is not explained anywhere) but there is no indication of the destination of through trains to Bourne End, Henley or beyond Reading.

See out Timetables page for more information.

Maidenhead Advertiser Joins the Fray

3rd December, 2004

The Maidenhead Advertiser this week launched its "Save Our Branch Lines" campaign. The paper interviewed branch line users, politicians, the business community and other interested parties including MMPA President, Maurice Oram. Mr Oram is concerned that the revenue from the Marlow branch doesn't accurately reflect the usage of the line because the booking offices aren't open long enough and fare collection on the trains is inadequate if not impossible at busy times.

The current issue contains a form which you can return to indicate your support for the campaign and indicate whether you support or oppose the community railway plan. Please send it in!

Passengers Concerned at Booking Delays

1st December, 2004

Delays by Network Rail in confirming plans for engineering work over the Christmas period have prevented some operators including First Great Western and Virgin Railways from taking holiday bookings. Passengers are worried that they won't be able to book the cheapest APEX fares as they have limited availability and need to be booked well in advance.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, a spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said that APEX fares would be bookable with a "seven day horizon". Nevertheless demand is expected to be heavy over the holiday period and the cheapest tickets will soon go once booking is resumed. A draft winter timetable is available for download from FGW's web site.

"Deep Concern" Over Community Railways

The Cookham Society, a registered charity with nearly 1,500 members, has contacted the MMPA regarding the Government's pilots for the community railway. Vice-chairman Georgina Wood expressed deep concern about the ramifications for our line. The Society made representations to Maidenhead's MP, Theresa May this summer.

Government Announces Pilot Rural Railways Scheme

The Strategic Rail Authority today announced plans for a pilot scheme involving seven rural railways in a bid to increase usage and revenue by involving the community in supporting and developing the lines. Details can be found on the DfT web site and on the BBC News pages.

Download the SRA's Community Rail Development Strategy document in PDF.

The Marlow line is not included in the pilot scheme. The MMPA has strongly argued that the line should remain an integral part of the national network and should be considered part of the London commuter area. The Windsor, Marlow and Henley-on-Thames branches are listed as candidates. Local commuters are concerned that conversion of the line to community railway status would spell the end for through rush hour trains to the capital. [2004-11-22]

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