Rail Timetable and Fare Changes between Bedwyn and Paddington – November 2019 update

November 2019 update

• On 14 November 2019 we received the following update from the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group (this confirms, clarifies and expands on their posts earlier in November which BTPG had provided and which were published here):

From 15 December 2019, the biggest timetable change since the 1970s will take place in the GWR region. For the first time, BTPG and other stakeholders have been consulted during the production of the new timetable.

We had some initial concerns, in particular with regards to the proposed morning peak service. However, we are pleased that GWR have addressed almost all of these concerns. As a result, we feel that the final result represents our best ever service.

The new times will be appearing on the GWR website, and pocket timetables will be available from The Stores and the Post Office in Great Bedwyn in time for the change. Meanwhile, we can give a general overview.

Eastbound departures from Bedwyn (to Paddington unless stated). 0534, 0601, 0626, 0651, 0700 (Newbury), 0729, 0750 (Reading), 0831, 0924, 1041. Then hourly until 1741, followed by a mix of through trains and some to Newbury.

Incoming trains from Paddington start from 0707, and then run hourly (as now) until 1907, with additional trains from Newbury during the evening peak period. There will be further departures from Paddington at 1737 (change at Newbury), 1837 (direct), 1936 (change at Newbury), and 2006 (direct). The final through train at 2220 is retained.

This will give an hourly service, increased to half-hourly during the morning and evening peak periods. The service on Saturdays and Sundays will show little change from the current pattern, though journey times will be reduced.

Monday to Friday journey times are reduced, in most cases and the majority will be operated by the new IETs. All in all, a very long way from the original plan of a shuttle service to and from Newbury, with just a couple of through trains to and from Paddington per day!

We will now be looking at the lack of trains running further west and poor connectivity in that direction. We are putting together various suggestions as to how that might be addressed, and we hope to work with other interested parties in that regard.

Changes to off-peak services

Unfortunately it is not all good news. GWR have switched a lot of weekday off-peak trains to full fare. Along with others we made a number of representations to GWR and, as a result, the following is the present situation from Monday December 16th:

  • The 0831, replacing the previous 0841 off-peak, is a peak service with the 0924 now forming the first off-peak service. Network Railcards and Senior Railcards are only going to continue on the 0924 on a trial basis.
  • In the afternoon the last off-peak service, from Paddington, is the 1507 and the next off-peak is not until 1907. This means the 1608, 1708, 1807 and 1837 are all full fare services.

GWR have stated that advance tickets will now be made available on our IET-operated services, so this should be of some help. For example an advanced purchase single ticket on the 0831 can be had for as little at £9.50 single, returning on the 1807 also for £9.50. Advanced purchase tickets are available up to 1800 on the day before travel and prices vary depending on how many tickets have been sold for the service you are attempting to book.

For ‘walk on fares’ there are other ways to save money at peak times. For example one could catch the 0831, Bedwyn to Newbury, for £8.10, alight then catch the 0919 Newbury to Paddington (arriving 1000) for an additional £17.00. Similar options are available by taking the 0831 to Reading on one ticket then purchasing a second ticket for the 0942 departure from Reading to Paddington (arriving 1007).

On the way home some of the non-IET trains from Paddington to Reading, and all of the Cross Rail services, are off peak. Although this makes for longer journey times it does allow one to travel with off-peak fares at peak times.

We will continue to request that the aforementioned 0831 and 1608 services are returned to off-peak.

Christmas travelling

As well as the big changes from 15 December, there will also be a temporary timetable in place while Network Rail work on infrastructure upgrades over Christmas and New Year.

This will affect services from 24 December to 1 January 2020 and includes the closure of Paddington station on 24 December and 27 December.

There is more information on www.GWR.com/Christmas

October 2019 update

It was reported on 17 October 2019 that another, less welcome, effect of the timetable changes will be the redefinition by GWR of a number of services as peak rather than off-peak which would result in a number of fares roughly doubling in December 2019. We have contacted the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group (see contact details at the foot of the post) about this and will update this article when we receive their comments (which we now have – see section above).

Newbury MP Richard Benyon issued a statement, also on 17 October 2019, saying he was ‘disappointed’ with these changes and that he would remain ‘in close contact with GWR’ over the matter.

September 2019 update

The following information was received from the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group on 16 September 2019: with BTPG’s permission, we’re happy to reproduce it here.

In 2009 the Department for Transport announced electrification as far as Newbury, relegating Kintbury, Hungerford and Bedwyn to a diesel shuttle service to and from Newbury. It’s been a long campaign but ten years on we’ve finally got there, and from December 15 2019 we are scheduled to have a better service than ever.

For more information on the background to the successful campaign to save the direct services, please see this article.

2019 timetable discussions

In July 2018 GWR began a process of engagement with local stakeholders over the composition of the December 2019 timetable. This was a welcome move by GWR, as previously timetables would be introduced with little or no consultation. As a result, we have attended three stakeholder meetings and had considerable dialogue with GWR, which included a very useful discussion with the Managing Directo.

This timetable change will be significant as it incorporates many changes following the full introduction of the IET fleet by GWR. The introduction of this major change has been delayed due to the well-publicised problems over timetables throughout the country during recent times.

When the draft Monday to Friday timetable was shared with us we had some specific concerns which we put forward to GWR, in particular, the provision of only two through trains before 0900 and a lengthy wait in Newbury for off-peak Bedwyn to Paddington services. We are pleased that, after reconsideration, GWR has been able to make several very positive changes to these, and some other services. We are sure that these will be of benefit to users, and we thank GWR for its efforts.

Timetable summary

We must point out that the timetable still has to be given final approval, so at this stage we will give a general overview. We should be able to give more details during October (and this post will be updated to reflect these).

Following our concerns over the morning peak service as originally proposed, we are pleased that there will now be an evenly spaced, twice hourly service between the hours of 0530 and 0830. Furthermore, most of these trains will be IETs that will operate through to Paddington and will have quicker journey times.

The core service to Paddington between the peak periods will generally retain the standard hourly departure time from Bedwyn, namely xx41. However, unlike the peak services, most trains will only see a modest improvement in journey time, though this is unlikely to be much of a concern to most users. There will also be some more through trains to Paddington later in the evening.

The evening peak service will see a continuation of the current twice hourly service, with through trains from Paddington alternating with connecting turbo shuttles from Newbury. At present, this sequence operates between 1606 and 1906. However, partly due to a suggestion from BTPG to make use of a turbo which would otherwise have waited in Newbury, that sequence is now extended by an extra hour to 2006, when an additional through train from Paddington will run.

The core service from Paddington will continue to operate on an hourly basis, with most departures at xx07. The journey times for these trains will show a clear improvement on current timings in most cases. We are pleased that the current intention is that the late service from Paddington (2220) will continue to run through to Bedwyn.

The timetables for Saturdays and Sundays show little change from those currently in operation. In general terms, hourly throughout the day on Saturdays, with most trains running to and from Paddington. Turbos will be deployed on later evening services. A two-hourly service will continue on Sundays.

Services to the west

Unfortunately, there is no direct improvement for anyone wishing to travel further west. However, due to the introduction of a two hourly service to Exeter St David’s, which will call at Newbury, it will be possible to travel to Newbury, then double back to the west every two hours. Connections at Newbury appear to be reasonable, so this is a welcome change. The Exeter trains will operate throughout the week, though it should be noted that as our trains only run every two hours on Sundays, opportunities then may be more limited.

We will now be giving our attention to the situation regarding travel to the west. We did make some suggestions as part of our response to the Franchise Consultation last year. Our main suggestion concerns the potential provision of an early semi-fast service down the Berks & Hants line to Westbury, at least, or preferably to Bristol Temple Meads. We have drawn up a specific proposal for such a service, along with a similar mid-evening return service. We hope to work with other interested parties to try to bring this to fruition in a subsequent timetable change.

Given the original pre-IET situation, we welcome the new timetable and thank GWR for engaging with us over its preparation. We look forward to receiving final confirmation shortly, when more details will then become available.

Bedwyn station improvements

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the red sign, on a pole, has been replaced at the station. This was following a request from us. We have also asked for the following improvements:

• To double the shelter space: the existing shelter is not big enough for the passenger volumes.
• To reposition the ticket machine to deal with the glare from the sun.
• To improve the station aesthetics by replacing rusting wire fences.
• To extend the ‘nose first’ parking at the station.

Hungerford station improvements

(This section written by Penny Post, not BTPG)

The situation here is slightly more complex and has become conflated with the issue of developing a long-term solution to the issue of car parking. At present there are adequate spaces but this will change when work starts on the development near the station which will result in about 100 temporary spaces being lost. In addition, the proposed much larger development at Salisbury Road will, when complete, increase demand still further.

As this article (which is regularly updated) explains, Hungerford Town Council, West Berkshire Council, the Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, Great Western Railway and Network Rail have been engaged in a series of discussions to address not only this issue but also the provision of additional services at or near the station and to improve aspects of the station itself.

Contact the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group

BTPG is run by Steve Smith and Bill Wells, both former commuters. As they do not now use the station on a daily basis they need you to tell them the problems you regularly encounter. They are particularly interested in hearing about (a) regular poor performance (b) missed connections at Newbury and (c) when delays are badly handled causing the problem to become worse. Feel free to contact them about any issue regarding the service or Bedwyn Station on info@bedwyntrains.org.uk.

You can also visit the BTPG website here.

Penny Post urges anyone who has any interest in improving any aspects of rail travel in the area to subscribe to the BTPG e-newsletters which are periodically sent out. As well as containing updates on campaigns, initiatives and discussions with other bodies (as this one does) they also provide useful information about matters such as replacement bus services at times of disruption: this is frequently both clearer and more up-to-date than that found on the train operators’ websites. The more people they can demonstrate thy represent, the more effective will be their future dealings with GWR and other relevant organisations. 

The photo above was supplied by GWR.

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