The withdrawal of high speed trains (due to hairline cracks) is causing changes to timetables. Our local train passenger lobby group is pressuring GWR to maintain our direct Paddington service and the mitigate the disruption until normal service is resumed.
Message from the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group (BTPG), 13 June 2021:
The BTPG wrote to GWR expressing its dissatisfaction with the current Bedwyn to Newbury shuttle service replacing the failed IETs. This led to a video call with GWR senior management on 11 June 2021. Here are the points raised and GWR’s responses.
- From our research, Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury appear to be – by far – the most affected of all the stations on the GWR network served by IETS. We understand, according to journey planners, that almost all other core direct services to and from Paddington previously operated by IETs have been restored, either using cleared IETs or class 387s. As previously mentioned, without a west-facing bay at Newbury a connecting shuttle service is problematic and, being at mercy of the freight paths, requires some lengthy change-over times. GWR agreed that we are the worst affected stations and acknowledged the frustration and upset this has caused. GWR is very sorry for the situation and is listening to us.
- The return train, for school children from Newbury, is poorly timed. GWR is trying its best to restore this train. It’s proving difficult but there is hope. We have requested a bus replacement service to get the school children home in a more timely manner.
- There is often confusion at Newbury with staff not informed of platform changes, short-notice cancellations or timing changes. GWR has agreed to look into this. We have also asked for a senior member of GWR staff to be assigned to Newbury station to better manage the situation.
- We note that some 10-car sets are still in operation. We asked if would be possible to split at least one of these. Perhaps if peak-time loadings were an issue and, given we still have a partial direct peak service, a ten-car unit could be split at Paddington at around 0900 and reinstated at around 1700 with the five-car unit operating the Bedwyn service in the interim. GWR informed us that it’s done everything it can but will continue to look at this.
- We asked if GWR can get us one IET back, (which would restore one-third of our service). In that event, if one more turbo could be added to the unit currently being used as a shuttle between Bedwyn and Newbury, would it be possible to revert to most of the original timetable? This might involve the IET operating on a three-hourly basis through to Paddington, with the turbos running between Bedwyn and Reading. GWR took our suggestion on board and will look into the matter. Due to their maximum speed, it’s unlikely that turbos will be able to operate through to Paddington. If circumstances permit, we feel that this would offer a clear improvement for users of Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury over the current temporary timetable, until the full original timetable can be restored.
- We requested some of the trains which serve Pewsey and don’t currently stop at Kintbury, Hungerford of Bedwyn have additional stops added. GWR has looked into but and there is no capacity in the current timings to do this.
- We asked when will the IETs all be fixed. GWR can’t commit to this as it is down to Hitachi to fix the trains.
Sorry that we haven’t been able to get this resolved yet. We are working hard on it and we are keeping GWR posted with your feedback. So please keep telling us where it “hurts” – especially when the connections go wrong at Newbury.
Message from the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group (BTPG), 30 May 2021:
We have received the following (in italics below) email from the MD of GWR, regarding the current situation. It looks as if we are stuck for the foreseeable with the majority of our trains – with the exception of a few peak ones – being a shuttle service between Bedwyn and Newbury.
Thank you for letting us know about the poor timings for school children returning from Newbury, poor connection times at Newbury, the short notice cancellations and the poor quality of information when things go wrong. We have taken all these points up with GWR.
For now please (i) always check your journey online and (ii) let us have any feedback (see contact details the there foot of the post).
Thanks to you and Bill for your emails and for passing on the comments coming through from Bedwyn users. I’ve asked Jane to come back to you separately on the customer information point you sent through below.
I asked our timetable team to go away and try and find a fix for some of the school trains back to Hungerford, Kintbury and Bedwyn. We won’t be able to put them back to their original timings, but certainly move them closer, and I am hopeful we will have this resolved for services next week. We will confirm as soon as we have everything in place and will welcome your help in spreading the news to your members.
We have also had a look at the connection times at Newbury for the Bedwyn shuttle. This is more challenging with both our services coming to/from the South West and the amount of freight on the line. In the evening peak, even with the connection at Newbury, timings are comparable to the direct services we usually run, but I understand the frustration of waiting for the shuttle and we are looking at it. We would of course prefer to bring back the direct services, something I know you want too! We will return these to the timetable as soon as possible. I am cautious however at putting a firm date on that while Hitachi continue to work through the repair plan for the IETs.
We will keep you updated on any further mitigations re the connections and will confirm the school services as soon as we can. I am really grateful to you and BTPG members for alerting us to these key services. I do understand it is frustrating that we cannot get everything back to normal more quickly. Things are better, and the loan of additional Class 387s has been a great help in plugging the missing IETs gap, but there is still a gap, and we can’t yet return weekday directs.
I’m therefore very grateful for your patience and that of our customers at Bedwyn, Kintbury and Hungerford as we work to resolve this, along with Hitachi and other industry partners. As the picture gets clearer I suggest Jane sets up a meeting with you and Bill, some members of our team and potentially Hitachi. In the meantime, we will keep in touch and again thank you for your help in mitigating the temporary timetable.
Mark Hopwood CBE | Managing Director | Great Western Railway
Message from the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group (BTPG), 16 May 2021:
As you are aware, the hairline cracks found in the Intercity Express Trains (IET) are affecting the timetable.
GWR announced late on Friday that the Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury services will, from Monday 17 May, revert to a diesel shuttle service to Newbury. In the same press release it implied this was for the entire summer. We are seeking urgent clarification from GWR as losing our direct Paddington service is not something we will accept.
In the meantime, the timetable through to Friday 21 May is showing us as a diesel shuttle service to Newbury with the exception of the 0601, 0626, 0651 and 0729 Bedwyn departures which remain direct to Paddington. In the evening, only the 1836 is showing as direct Paddington to Bedwyn with the addition of the 1636 direct to Hungerford.
From Monday 24 May the online timetables are showing us as back to normal (ie restoration of our direct services to Paddington).
As mentioned, we are seeking urgent clarification from GWR as to the full extent of the diesel shuttle service to Newbury. In the meantime please always check your journey.
The following statement was received by the BTPG from GWR on Monday 17 May 2021:
“We don’t yet know when we will be back to full IET strength. We cannot therefore say how long we will need to put mitigations in place. The reference to summer was to remind everyone that the new summer timetable started today. It was not intended to imply that this would be the position for the summer.
“For now, the journey planner will need to be updated weekly as we assess the position with availability. I will keep in touch with you as things develop and will make sure that BTPG has the most up-to-date information. I appreciate that this does not give you the certainty of a date for direct services to return but hopefully it explains the reference to ‘summer plan’.”
BTPG replied with the following observations, also on Monday 17 May 2021:
“As you probably can guess, we’re getting a bit of a backlash from our passengers. It’s come at a significant time with the lockdown easing. It’s not just the inconvenience of a longer journey, platform changes and risk of missed connections but also the concern of having to change at Newbury with Covid in the air.
“We do understand that putting us on a diesel shuttle quickly frees up IETs. However, it reinforces the view that Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury are the first to be impacted when there is disruption and that short-notice terminations are common at Newbury when GWR need to get the trains running back on time.
“Can we therefore ask that we are given some form of priority when units come back into service? Even just one IET back would make a big difference by giving additional direct services for passengers to work around.”
Note: if you use the services between Bedwyn, Hungerford and London Paddington, however, infrequently, Penny Post seriously advises that you sign up to receive the newsletters and updates from the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group (BTPG). During times of disruption (as happens) this provides a superb source of information, often far clearer than that provided by the train operator. The BTPG has also been very effective at lobbying for service and other improvements on the line so any comments you pass on to them may be influential.