Important (and unwelcome) message from the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group about changes to rail services from May 2022 – 10 May 2022 update and summary

New Bedwyn Train - 1

Summary

Since GWR’s announcement in early March that the number of direct services from Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury would be considerably reduced from May, the Bedwyn Train Passengers group has sent several emails to its members detailing the discussions with GWR and others. These have been re-published below. On 30 March, the BTPG produced a summary in advance of the Hungerford town meeting which you can see below (in blue).

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). See the foot of the post for more information including contact details.

Prior to Covid, Hungerford was served by

  • three dedicated IETs serving Paddington to Bedwyn
  • stops on some through IET peak time services and
  • a Newbury diesel shuttle to give a half hourly evening peak service.

This gave 27 departures, 19 direct to Paddington and 25 arrivals, 16 direct from Paddington. This should have been the standard service Hungerford returned to post-Covid.

However, to cut costs, the DfT/GWR are redeploying the three dedicated IETs to the Cardiff to Penzance route, replacing them with a single diesel shuttle services to Newbury. This will leave Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury as the most sacrificed services on the GWR region.

This will give 21 departures, seven direct to Paddington and 20 arrivals, five direct from Paddington (Hungerford off-peak has fared slighted better than Kintbury and Bedwyn with stops on through services). As connections at Newbury are frequently not held, for late inbound services, journey times will be affected more than shown.

The BTPG (see foot of post for details) has shown that it is not possible to run a decent off-peak service with just one diesel shuttle: so in the short term we are requesting some immediate changed to the May timetable to (i) fix flaws in the first off-peak service and (ii) address the lengthy journey times after the 1836 Paddington departure.

BTPG has also requested one IET is returned for December and our three IETs are returned from May 2023 (requiring either (i) the leasing of additional stock to serve Cardiff/Penzance or (ii) switching three Class 387 trains (electric only, serving Paddington/Newbury) to the Paddington to Bristol line to free up three IETs (bimode) to serve Paddington to Bedwyn).

Other options have also been looked into (see 28 March update below) but are either too difficult, too expensive or too long-term to be of any immediate help. Therefore BTPG’s stance is campaigning to get the IETs back (something GWR also supports).

Update 10 May 2022

We didn’t give up on the late evening connections and after further campaigning GWR have now agreed with Network Rail to give us decent connections off the 2003 and 2104 Paddington departures. So the mid to late evening Paddington to Bedwyn weekday service is now:

  • Dep Paddington 2003, arr Bedwyn 2108 – 1’05”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2104, arr Bedwyn 2313 – 1’9″, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2133, arr Bedwyn 2303 – 1’30”, two changes.
  • Dep Paddington 2222, arr Bedwyn 2351 – 1’29”, no changes.

Missed train connections at Newbury

The new timetable starts from Sunday May 15th. As there will be far more connections than there are now GWR have introduced a holding policy where some connecting trains can be held for an additional few minutes. We need to monitor this and would therefore ask that you email us with any missed connections. We can then investigate whether the holding policy was followed or not.

For any delay of 15 minutes or more you are entitled to compensation. Please see https://www.gwr.com/help-and-support/refunds-and-compensation/delay-repay This includes season tickets. Please do always claim as it will highlight to GWR where the problems are.

Missed bus (rail replacement) connections at Newbury

There have been some recent instances of missed connections at Newbury onto bus replacement services. We have spoken with GWR about this and they have advised that, if your delay is more than an hour, to use the help points to request a taxi. The reason for the hour window is that, currently, the taxi has to come from Reading and there’d be no advantage if the next bus were within the hour. GWR is trying to get contracts with Newbury taxis to improve the situation. Additionally, the bus drivers are being re-briefed to check the arrivals board and, if possible, wait for a late train.

December timetable

We will continue to press GWR for a full return to our service but, realistically, for December we are looking for some smaller improvements plus the reinstatement of the 0831 direct from Bedwyn (i.e. the first off-peak train to be direct to Paddington).

Update 1 May 2022

We continue to be in negotiation with GWR regarding the new May timetable. So far GWR has agreed the following changes:

  1. The 1907 (Paddington to Newbury) will now also be direct to Kintbury, Hungerford and Bedwyn. Therefore this will remain the same as the current timetable.
  2. The 0849 Bedwyn departure will be off-peak and should allow a Network Card to be used. We will continue to check this.
  3. The 0849 Bedwyn departure will be better connected at Newbury. It will arrive at Newbury 0907 and there will be a direct Paddington departure at 0920, arriving 1009. Previously the proposal for this service required two changes with a journey time of one hour and thirty five, now it’s one hour and twenty.
  4. The 0948 Bedwyn departure will have a better connection for Paddington. It will require two changes but will have a journey time of one hour and thirty six. Previously the journey time was two hours and four minutes.

The reinstatement of the 1907 direct should have freed up the shuttle to give good connections off the 2003 and 2104 Paddington to Newbury trains. However, GWR has not retimed the shuttle so the next two trains (after the 1907 direct) include lengthy connections off the 2007 and 2128 off Paddington:

  • Dep Paddington 2007, arr Bedwyn 2142 – 1’35”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2128, arr Bedwyn 2302 – 1’34”, two changes.

GWR has explained it can’t retime these because the following time-ordered scenario occurred:

  1. GWR gave Network Rail the proposed new timetable for May.
  2. Network Rail then adjusted the late evening freight train timetables to work with this.
  3. GWR reinstated the 1907, allowing the late evening shuttles to revert to their present times.
  4. Network Rail say they now can’t change the adjustments made in point 2, meaning we can’t have the late evening shuttles at their present timings. Therefore we are stuck with the new late evening timetable.

We have checked the freight timings on two journey planners which are publicly available and take their information from Network Rail and we can find no freight conflicts. We have therefore asked GWR to look at this urgently as it should be possible to keep to the current times:

  • Dep Paddington 2004, arr Bedwyn 2016 – 1’02”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2104, arr Bedwyn 2210 – 1’06”, one change.

Update 16 April 2022

Thank you to everybody who has recently subscribed to our email group. And thank you to everybody who has written to their MP or the Secretary of State. It does help and the weight of our voice is essential as we move forward to rectify the cuts.

We have now heard back from GWR with their considered reply to each of the points we raised regarding the May timetable. Their responses are below. In brief the only concessions we have won are the reinstatement of the 1907 direct from Paddington and a tweak to one of the long waits at Newbury in the first off-peaks.

The reinstatement of the 1907 should have sorted out the Newbury connections for the later trains. However, GWR have not done this and there’s no reason why they can’t. Therefore we have gone back to them asking for this to be resolved for May such that we have decent connections at Newbury for the 2003 and 2104 Paddington departures. We have also asked for the 0803 (direct from Bedwyn) to be off-peak. This is highly unlikely to be granted, but asking does drive home the point of how bad the off-peak service will be.

Here follows GWR’s response to our points.

Thank you again for reviewing the timetable and for meeting with Matt and his team to see what improvements might be possible. We have listed your suggestions below with comments against each.  There are some changes that we are not going to be able to make, but we have looked closely at each suggestion and have explained why it is not possible.

There are also some changes that we will be bidding to Network Rail for approval to start in December. We will keep you updated on progress with those, and there are also some changes that we are able to make in May.  The most significant is the return of the direct 1907 service from Paddington. This did require DfT agreement and support, and we are grateful to Danny Kruger MP, Laura Farris MP, and the Rail Minister Wendy Morton MP for their help in securing that approval.

As you know we are also working on a bespoke contingency plan for Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury to reduce the potential for missed connections and we will forward details of the plan early next week. This will include a direct contact in the performance team for you to report any problems or ideas for improvement once the new timetable starts. 

Can one IET be found by either (i) swapping one of the 387 trains, which serve Paddington to Newbury, with an IET serving on the mainline to Bristol or by (ii) splitting a 10 car IET, serving on the mainline to Bristol, to give us the 5 car IET that we need?

We have looked at all options for swapping alternative IET circuits over to Class 387s. We have very few routes where IETs are used that are wholly under overhead lines and therefore suitable for all electric traction.  The line to Bristol Temple Meads is only electrified to Thingley Junction (Chippenham) and our services to Bristol Parkway extend through to South Wales, where electrification is only complete to Cardiff and all services in the morning and evening peaks extend to/from Swansea.  We have identified the 0712 from Paddington to Cardiff which has already been made a Class 387 working but further opportunities do not exist.  

There are also additional issues switching between IET and Class 387 on this route as it requires 125mph running on the Paddington-Bristol Parkway section.  Any reduction in speed impacts all services on the route, particularly the freight trains booked to closely follow our services from passing loops. A reduction in our speed would mean there was insufficient time for them to get to the next passing loop behind our retimed service, which would have a very significant impact on the speed and performance of passenger services on the route. 

Nor can we split any 10 car services.  These are carefully allocated on the basis of passenger numbers and on set balancing to be sure we have the correct number of vehicles on our busy routes/services and can return IETs back to the right depot for servicing and maintenance each day. We are running less trains now in the morning and evening peak so the capacity of remaining services is key.

The 1907 Paddington departure will require a change at Newbury: this gives a poor mid to late evening service.

We have found a solution. This does require an additional guard turn and required the agreement of the Minister of State for Rail, which has been secured. We can therefore return the 19:07 Paddington-Bedwyn to a direct service (also calling at Kintbury and Hungerford). The return working will also be direct, and this will start in the May 2022 timetable subject to Network Rail validation (which we expect to receive) with the changes being actioned later this week. The direct services will then appear in electronic systems – this generally takes a couple of weeks, we will get confirmation and send on.

The May timetable also has a flaw with the first off-peak in morning service. Currently this is the 0831 which is direct to Paddington (journey time 1:03). With the proposed May timetable the first off-peak would be the 0849, requiring two changes and a journey time to Paddington of 1′ 35″ with the next service as the 0948 with one change but a journey time of 2′ 04″. Can you operate the 0831 as an IET to give us a morning off-peak service?

We have looked at this very carefully, but we have not been able to find a solution. We are continuing to look at a couple of the morning workings to see if there is anything we can do to improve the situation for May or December, and we will keep you updated, but for now there are no changes in the morning peak. We have, however, made some progress with a connection for the 09:48 Bedwyn-Newbury and have retimed the 10:06 Newbury-Reading to 10:12 to give a forward connection.  

Adding a call on the 1836 ex Padd at Kintbury

There isn’t space in the timetable to make the extra call without impacting the 1904 Plymouth service which follows closely behind.  We have however reduced the connection time at Newbury to 10 minutes for customers travelling to Kintbury from the 1836.

The 11:32 and 1321 weekday Newbury services do not call at Kintbury

We have not been able to amend this in May, due to other train paths.  We are however re-bidding to Network Rail to add the calls in December and liaising with them about moving other services to accommodate the stops. 

Weekend Calls at Hungerford

Subject to Network Rail’s final validation, we will be able to add additional Saturday calls at Hungerford in May along with five additional calls at Hungerford on Sunday.  We will also be bidding for another two Saturday calls in December and hope to add an 0943 from Hungerford arriving Paddington at 10:29 and a 1322 from Hungerford arriving Paddington at 1413. We will also bid for further Sunday calls in December, but this will require changes to other services (not GWR) so may not be possible. If they are agreed this would give Hungerford an additional two-hourly service through the day

Update 28 March 2022

Bill Wells and I met with members of the senior management team at GWR, Swindon on Tuesday 22 March. We can summarise the meeting as follows:

1.  There are too many issues with adding batteries to the 387 fleet to enable them to serve Bedwyn. Therefore we should forget this option.

2. Our three IETs have been reassigned to replace ‘Castle’ (reformed HST) trains on the Cardiff to Penzance route. GWR stated they want to see them back on the Bedwyn route ASAP. Therefore, we should campaign to get these back. This will require additional funding from the DfT, to lease additional diesel trains to run the Cardiff to Penzance service.

3. We should also consider pressing for electrification to be extended to at least Bedwyn to allow the 387 fleet to serve Bedwyn. However, the 387s which currently serve Newbury are eight car sets and the siding at Bedwyn can only accommodate a four car set. Thus this solution will mean a four-car set running to Paddington not the desired eight-car set. So it’s not a perfect solution. Additionally electrification would take a number of years to fund and implement so the solution in point 2 is the better, and likely cheaper, one.

4. GWR has promised to make a serious effort to get the connections at Newbury to work (ie be held if there are delays to the inbound service). These include:

  • (i) amalgamating two roles at the control centre so the person monitoring the delayed inbound connections and the person deciding whether to hold a service are one and the same
  • (ii) GWR paying the delay minutes (i.e. the charges imposed for the Bedwyn shuttle being late, due to it being held at Newbury) so control staff won’t be letting the shuttle go because of costs
  • (iii) Newbury station staff and the drivers being briefed to request shuttles to be held
  • (iv) special stop orders being brought in such that if the shuttle is unavailable then other through services will stop at Kintbury, Hungerford and Bedwyn.

However, GWR has said it still can’t hold trains in all circumstances. Therefore any improvement here is still not a suitable substitute for our direct Paddington services. We informed GWR that we will ask our users to report to us all occasions where the shuttle fails to connect and that we intend to take these up with them on a case-by-case basis. They welcomed this and said they want to work with us. So please do report all missed Newbury connections to us.

5. Having looked at the proposed timetable for May we realise that a reasonable off-peak service cannot be achieved with just one diesel shuttle between Newbury and Bedwyn. To have any sensible service we need at least one turbo and one dedicated IET. We asked GWR if one IET can be found in order to provide a three-hourly through service between Bedwyn and Paddington, to work alongside the turbo shuttle. We also identified what we felt would be the most beneficial use of such a set to local users by way of providing GWR with a proposed timetable. We also suggested how GWR could free up an IET without additional costs. GWR have not indicated that they plan to implement this suggestion.

6. In the very short term, the timetable for May has a serious flaw in the evening service and we have asked GWR to try to fix this. The 1907 Paddington departure will become a ‘387’ and require a change at Newbury. The connecting turbo for this will be out of position having served as an earlier connection. It then having to serve the 1907 causes it to be out of step with the 2007 and 2104 Paddington departures. This gives the following poor mid to late evening service:

  • Dep Paddington 1907, arr Bedwyn 2048 – 1’41”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2007, arr Bedwyn 2142 – 1’35”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2104, arr Bedwyn 2302 – 1’58”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2128, arr Bedwyn 2302 – 1’34”, two changes.
  • Dep Paddington 2222, arr Bedwyn 2351 – 1’29”, no changes.
  • (Total journey times 8’17”, average journey time 1’39”).

If GWR could make the 1907 an IET (perhaps by swapping a 387 with an IET on the Bristol line), which would run direct to Bedwyn, the above then becomes the much improved:

  • Dep Paddington 1907, arr Bedwyn 2012 – 1’05”, no changes.
  • Dep Paddington 2007, arr Bedwyn 2119 – 1’03”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2104, arr Bedwyn 2210 – 1’06”, one change.
  • Dep Paddington 2128, arr Bedwyn 2302 – 1’34”, two changes.
  • Dep Paddington 2222, arr Bedwyn 2351 – 1’29”, no changes.
  • (Total journey times 6’17”, average journey time 1’15”).

7. The timetable for May also has a flaw with the first off-peak morning service. Currently this is the 0831 IET which is direct to Paddington (journey time 1:03). With the proposed May timetable the 0831 is to be withdrawn, so the first off-peak would be the 0849 to Newbury, requiring two changes and a journey time to Paddington of 1:35. The current 0924 turbo is moved to 0948, also with two changes and a much extended journey time. We have asked GWR if they can operate the 0831 as an IET. If implemented, this would also enable the 0924 to be retained. At the time of writing, we have not had any indication as to whether points 6) and 7) will be implemented.

8. We also highlighted a ridiculous situation which has been created twice during the day, westbound from Newbury, again due to the removal of the IETs. Unless a solution is found, Kintbury users will be faced with two gaps of two hours, as will those wishing to travel from Hungerford to Bedwyn.

What we presented to GWR illustrates the folly of the entire concept of turning a very good service into a mish-mash of connecting (or non-connecting) trains, with the notable exception of the morning peak. We acknowledged the efforts of the GWR timetable section but it just doesn’t work. We, at BTPG have campaigned since 2009 to try to prevent this happening. We are concerned that passenger numbers could decline which may, in turn, be used as a reason not to restore the IETs. Therefore, we would urge everyone to continue to use the trains whenever they can, but to also push for the restoration of through trains as soon as possible.

We have written to Danny Kruger MP and Laura Farris MP requesting that they press the DfT to address points 6 and 7 for the May 2022 timetable change and point 5 for the December 2022 timetable change with a request for additional funding, to lease three further diesel trains for the Cardiff to Penzance route, so we can have our three IETs back for the May 2023 timetable change.

For the record, we have also appeared on Wiltshire Radio and will be having a stand at the climate day to be held on Saturday 2 April at Marlborough Town Hall. If you are attending this event please do drop by to say hello.

Update 23 March 2022

On 21 March I contacted my MP Laura Farris about this (as many others have done). On 23 March I received the following reply:

“I am aware of the disappointing (and extraordinary) decision to remove three Intercity Express Trains from the Bedwyn to Paddington line to replace ageing stock on another part of the network; and the significant reduction in service this will entail (especially in the evening returning to Kintbury and Hungerford).

“I have recently met representatives of the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group and I have also requested an urgent meeting with the Rail Minister, Wendy Morton, which is taking place on Monday. I will also be speaking to GWR.

“I will do all I can to fight against this change before its proposed implementation in May and I will keep you updated as soon as I know more.”

Update 18 March 2022

Further news from the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group – see below for the background to this.

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). See the foot of the post for more information including contact details.

We thought we’d update you on what’s been going on.

Meetings. On Monday 14 March we had a successful meeting with Danny Kruger (MP covering Bedwyn) and Laura Farris (MP covering Hungerford and Kintbury). The meeting went very well and the two MPs are fully on board to improve on what GWR is offering in the May timetable. They are meeting with the Department for Transport and GWR next week. We stressed all the points that you have raised with us. Thanks to all of you who wrote to your MP – the volume of correspondence they received highlighted the problem.

Bill Wells and I are meeting GWR this coming Tuesday (22 March) to see what can be done, both from May and going forward.

Replacement bus services. We have received reports that when there is a rail replacement bus service the buses are going through narrow lanes, often getting blocked in. We have spoken to GWR and were told that the buses should use the A4 as the backbone of the route. If this happens again please can you feedback to us and we’ll report it to GWR.

The 0831 from Bedwyn. Please note that the weekday 0831 from Bedwyn is still a concessionary off-peak service. We have received reports that some ticket sellers are still selling full fare only. GWR has confirmed it is still off-peak. If you find yourself in the impossible situation of having to buy a full-fare ticket then please let us know and we’ll lobby for a refund.

Update 11 March 2022

Further to the announcement by GWR about cuts to direct services from May 2022 (see the 3 March 2022 update below), Bill Wells and Steve Smith from the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group (BTPG) have not been idle. On 11 March we received the following report from them, describing what’s been happening and what the next steps are.

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). See the foot of the post for more information including contact details.

Thank you to everybody who has written to their MP regarding the loss of our direct Paddington off-peak services from May. Thank you too to everybody who has recently joined our email list.

What’s been happening:

  • Our initial email has been picked up by various press outlets, including Penny Post, Newbury Weekly News and the BBC.
  • Bill Wells and I did a TV interview for South Today. This aired on 3 March.
  • We have a Zoom meeting with our local MP, Danny Kruger, booked for Monday afternoon.
  • We are due to meet GWR face to face in the week commencing 21 March.

We have also been examining the proposed timetable and have put our concerns to GWR. This is aside from the fact that we don’t agree with the cuts. Instead we are at least trying to get the May timetable to work for Kintbury, Hungerford and Bedwyn. At present the shuttle service (Bedwyn to Newbury) has a number of, shall we say, strange timings in it.

In preparation for our meetings with our MP and (separately) GWR we have prepared the attached timetable summary document. It shows three timetables:

  1. The service we should be getting (ie the pre-Covid December 2019 service).
  2. The service we are getting today.
  3. The service proposed from May.

 

It indicates quite clearly how much the Bedwyn service level is being reduced with the direct services to Paddington being reduced from 19 to six and the return journey directs from 16 to three. As mentioned before, the connections at Newbury do not work very well so the situation is even worse than it looks.

Although the document is prepared for Bedwyn, it’s very similar for Kintbury and Hungerford.

Update 3 March 2022

On 2 March Bill Wells and Steve Smith from the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group (BTPG) participated in a conference call with GWR. The MD of GWR, Mark Hopwood, spoke first and delivered some very bad news. The Paddington direct IET off-peak services are permanently being axed from May and replaced by diesel shuttle services to Newbury. We include the full text of BTPG’s report below.

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). See the foot of the post for more information including contact details.

The DfT, which took financial control of the railways from the start of the pandemic, has told GWR to cut costs. To do this GWR has decided to retire older diesel trains in the West Country and replace them with the three IET trains that serve Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury. You may recall these trains are something we fought hard for from the announcement, in 2009, of electrification to Newbury to their rollout some ten years later. Initially, when electrification was announced, our entire service would have been a diesel shuttle service to Newbury. It was a long fight and in December 2019 we ended up with the best service we ever had. This was then hit by Covid in March 2020 and cracks in the IET fleet. We were hoping our IETs would fully return to service in May and end the additional diesel shuttles to Newbury we have been enduring. But instead we are an easy target and we are being sacrificed again. Add to that we often get inconvenienced by missed connections at Newbury and it doesn’t bode well.

It will leave us on the worst timetable since June 1992 (when the pre-Turbo fleet was retired). The direct commuter peak morning service will be fairly good (with stops on through trains), but we will only have two direct trains back in the evening. Everything else will be hourly diesel shuttles between Bedwyn and Newbury only. Some have decent connections to and from Paddington but others have journey times between Bedwyn and Paddington of up to two hours and in one case more.

The diesel shuttles from Bedwyn will connect in with the Class 387 Paddington to Newbury service. These latter trains are electric only. Ironically our three IET trains (which are bi-mode, running on electric to Newbury and diesel beyond) will be redeployed to a non-electrified area of the network. So that’ll be circa £200m of rolling stock designed for electric traction unable to make use of it. Additionally the Bedwyn siding was extended, at a cost in excess of £1m, to accommodate the IETs. The extension will now be a white elephant. You couldn’t really make this up.

In summary (and this may change)…

  • The direct Bedwyn trains are proposed as: 0534, 0600, 0626, 0651, 0729 and 0803. The return directs are proposed as: 1808 and 1836.
  • The direct Hungerford trains are proposed as: 0540, 0606, 0633, 0657 and 0736. The return directs are proposed as: 1035, 1233, 1636, 1808 and 1836.

[As matters stand, the 0803 from Bedwyn will not stop at Hungerford, which seems very odd.]

The MD of GWR acknowledged this was far from ideal and it would be an aim of his to get our service back. However, we did feel these were words of comfort when there is no plan for this. GWR would need to find extra rolling stock and, in the current climate, that’s unlikely to be found.

During our campaign to retain our direct Paddington service, post electrification, there were three options:

  1. Extend electrification to Bedwyn: This was something we didn’t champion. BTPG have always been very cautious about bringing the ugly overhead wires and gantries through the Kennet Valley.
  2. The bi-mode IET solution: This was the one that was implemented and we thought would be with us for many years.
  3. Kitting the Class 387 trains with batteries so they could run onto Bedwyn. GWR were seriously considering this before going for option 2.

Given the Class 387s are now operating to Newbury, Bill and I feel point 3 is what we will now campaign for.

The last two years have shown us that connections at Newbury don’t work. The connections are not guaranteed and the fact you even have to change trains is off-putting. We have made it very clear to GWR how unhappy we are and that connections at Newbury are not reliable enough. GWR have promised to look at better ways of getting the connections to work. But, given we have campaigned on this point since we formed sixteen years ago, we can’t see any great improvement.

Beyond May, Bill and I will campaign for additional stops on through services and improved connections at Newbury. We will additionally start a campaign to get batteries added to the Class 387 units so the Paddington/Newbury service can be extended to Bedwyn.

What can you do?

  1. Please let us know which trains are currently essential for school and college travel. We are awaiting the ‘final’ May timetable from GWR and we want to be sure this works for school and college children.
  2. Write to your MP: laura.farris.mp@parliament.uk or danny.kruger.mp@parliament.uk.
  3. We’ll need more support for our campaigns so we need to expand our email list. If you know of fellow commuters/users please can you ask them to contact us and be added to our email list: info@bedwyntrains.org.uk.

Update 6 January 2022

A number of factors including the hairline cracks that have affected some high-speed trains, Covid-related staff shortages and various seasonal disruptions are causing changes to services, often at short notice. Our local train passenger lobby group, the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group (BTPG), is pressuring GWR to maintain our direct Paddington service and to mitigate any disruption.

You may have seen that a number of train operators have introduced temporary timetables as a result of increased sickness and self-isolation.

As from Saturday 8 January, GWR is introducing a temporary timetable, which will run through to Saturday 15 January. GWR will review this weekly. The operator is hopeful that this will be a short-lived measure with a quick return to the published timetable.

The full list of changes is on GWR’s website www.gwr.com/timetables along with advice to customers.  The changes are in the national database, so online journey planners should be accurate from today. If GWR makes further changes beyond 15 January, these will show in journey planners from 12 January.

GWR is contacting customers who have booked onto services they are changing to offer refunds or transfer to alternative services. The Book with Confidence scheme, that allows customers to change non-refundable tickets, has been extended until March.

How does this affect Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury?

  • The 0510 (1K71) from Bristol Temple Meads to Paddington (calling Bedwyn at 0626) will be cancelled.
  • The 1808 (1J93) from Paddington to Frome (calling Bedwyn at 1917) will be cancelled.
  • The 2222 (1K32) from Paddington to Bedwyn (arriving 2352) will be cancelled – GWR will be putting in place a Reading to Bedwyn service in lieu of the 2222.

However, do check before you travel on https://www.journeycheck.com/greatwesternrailway.

Update 12 December 2021

Please find below an email from Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of GWR [to Steve Smith of the BTPG, dated Friday 10 December 2021] which outlines the current position.

Regarding the 0831 (Bedwyn to Paddington) being off-peak: this will likely be updated in the fares on a week by week basis. Thus you will probably see it as full-fare if you look a week ahead, then see it switch to off-peak with a few days to go. If you notice it full-fare within two days of when you check online then please email us and we’ll chase it with GWR.

Also, regarding the 0831 from Bedwyn, the ticket machines do not issue off-peak fares until 0830. So if boarding at Bedwyn you’ll need to buy on-board.

Please remember the 2004 off Paddington now connects with a Newbury to Bedwyn shuttle service. The 2004 arrives in Newbury at 2044 and the shuttle departs, from Newbury, at 2048. Please let us know of any connection issues.

Dear Steve

I promised to keep you updated on our timetable changes. We have a new timetable starting on Sunday (12th December), with both weekend and weekday changes. Online timetable journey planners have been updated and you can download copies of specific timetable booklets from our website on https://www.gwr.com/plan-journey/train-times

As a result of having more of our Hitachi Class 800 Intercity Express Trains [IETs] available, we are able to reintroduce more of our direct services between Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury to London Paddington. 

I’m grateful to the work of the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group for helping us to find some further opportunities in the timetable, and those mitigations are introduced as of next Monday too. I’ve attached a PDF copy of the timetable to this email. As and when more IETs become available, we will introduce the remaining missing direct services for Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury – I will of course keep you updated on any developments.

Since the pandemic started, we have been really grateful for your help and support, and I know our staff appreciate this too. I look forward to continuing working with you as we build a recovery for rail and for the communities we serve.

Best wishes

Mark Hopwood CBE | Managing Director | Great Western Railway

Update 3 December 2021

We were hoping for a return to normal from the new December timetable. However, not all of the IET trains have been repaired so we still have some shuttles to and from Newbury. The new timetable initially had a very poor 0952 service (a fifteen-minute wait at Newbury and a change at Reading giving a journey time to Paddington of one hour thirty-two minutes), and the retention of the long evening gap between the 1907 and 2104 departures from Paddington.

My passenger group colleague, Bill Wells, worked out a solution to both of these by tweaking the times of the turbo services between Bedwyn and Newbury. Initially GWR didn’t have the resources to look at the proposal but with a bit of pleading from us they took another look and implemented Bill’s solution. Well done Bill, it’ll really help.

You might see some early versions of the new timetables with both these problems still showing. However, rest assured the 0952 service no longer runs and we have a 0924 with a change at Newbury, arriving Paddington at 1041. In the evening you can catch the 2004 off Paddington and change at Newbury, arriving Bedwyn 2106.

We also requested that the off-peak concession for the 0831 departure should be extended beyond December. The DfT has granted this while we are waiting for the return of our IETs.

We have some good news about the TVM. After a request by ourselves GWR has told us that “we have secured a TVM shelter that we are planning to get installed at Bedwyn. Although second hand, it will paint up like new and provide passengers a dry ticket and a screen without sun glare.”

The usage figures for April 2020 to April 2021 have been published. Due to Covid, all of the local stations have reductions of between 80 and 84%, with Bedwyn down from 129,886 to 20,398.

Update 18 September 2021

GWR has informed us that, from Monday 20 September, the following additional direct services have been restored:

From Bedwyn:

  • 1140
  • 1341
  • 2042

From Paddington:

  • 1007
  • 1207
  • 1907

This makes the current (from 20 September) set of direct services as:

From Bedwyn:

  • 0601
  • 0626
  • 0651
  • 0729
  • 0831
  • 1140
  • 1341
  • 1641
  • 2042

From Paddington:

  • 0707
  • 1007
  • 1207
  • 1507
  • 1808
  • 1836
  • 1907

It’s been pointed out to us that although the 0831 is off-peak, you can’t buy a ticket from the machine at Bedwyn station until 0830. We asked GWR about the legitimacy of boarding without a ticket. While awaiting for the reply, our best advice is to board and seek out the ticket seller and explain the situation.

It’s also been noted that the 1907 return from Paddington is full-fare, with a gap until 2104 to the next train (which is off-peak). We’ve requested that GWR make the 1907 off-peak as a temporary measure. Remember that advanced purchase or travelling on the TfL Crossrail between Reading and Paddington (which are always off-peak) are ways of reducing the cost of travel during peak times.

Update 24 August 2021

Today we had our Zoom meeting with GWR senior managers regarding performance.

Thank you to all those who sent us things to raise. You sent so many we were unable to get through them all in the allotted hour but we have submitted them all by way of a document and GWR has promised to work through them and get back to us.

During the meeting, Bill and I made it very clear that the current level of performance is unacceptable. The changes at Newbury are not reliable enough and there are too many cancellations of the direct trains to and from Paddington.

GWR explained the following:

  • Every day they speak with Hitachi to ascertain the number of trains available. GWR has 93 trains and needs 75 to run a normal service. At the moment Hitachi is only able to release 65 per day for certain: that has been the situation since the end of May. Some days they can go up to 68. The missing trains are what’s causing all of the problems. GWR state if they can get back to 70 we can probably have our trains back.
  • Hitachi can’t give a date for the repairs. So, it sounds like they are still struggling to find a solution. Hitachi gets paid on train availability so there is real incentive for them to resolve this.
  • They only have one Turbo to run the Newbury to Bedwyn shuttle. This leaves the service vulnerable if the Turbo is not available. It also means that there isn’t a possibility of running Turbos from Bedwyn to Reading.
  • The current through services to Pewsey, Westbury and the West of England are too tightly timed to give us any further stops on these.
  • Other causes of cancellations and delays are: freight train failures; track faults; rail temperature issues in hot weather; trespassers; signal failure; level crossing  failures; line-speed restrictions,; and shortage of train crews. In addition, through services are prioritised over the Bedwyn service. This can lead to our Turbo being held in the Bedwyn turn back siding or missing a connection at Newbury.
  • GWR is trying to get some of the freight trains off our line to improve reliability of the passenger services.
  • The reduced numbers of advanced purchase fares available is likely due to people preferring them to purchasing season tickets. GWR haven’t dropped the number available. Instead fewer season tickets are being sold and instead people are buying the advanced tickets. So, if you are not seeing so many available it’s because they are selling more quickly than normal. GWR reminded us of the flexi season ticket, details of which canoe found here.
  • The easement on the 0850 (to enable the use of Network Railcards) is proving problematic. It’s all been agreed but it’s a case of ‘the computer says no’. Instead GWR has gone back to the DfT to ask to make this service off-peak (which will automatically allow Network Railcards). Please note that if this is agreed then it’ll only last as long as the current situation persists so no precedent will be set to allow an off-peak service this early in normal circumstances.

So it’s a perfect storm of a number of factors making our service very poor at the moment. Ideally we want our direct trains back to Paddington but we made it clear that if that is not possible then GWR needs to be able to run a Bedwyn to Reading shuttle instead of a Bedwyn to Newbury.

Update 2 August 2021

It would appear that the problems with the cracks in the trains (see below) have still not been fully resolved, the pingdemic problem being perhaps partly responsible. The Bedwyn Train Passengers Group (BTPG) continues to press GWR for a resolution – when there’s any more news, we’ll provide an update here. However, passengers should prepare themselves for the continuation of these emergency arrangements for the next few months, possibly until the next timetable refresh in December 2021.

See also the message at the foot of this post about the BTPG – this is an excellent example of local pressure group that helps resolve the problems it encounters. This issue is only the latest in a long series of campaigns the BTPG has waged to improve the services or to mitigate the disruption on this stretch of line.

Message from the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group (BTPG), 21 June 2021:

Following our video conference with GWR we’ve had the following responses:

  • The Head of Train Service Delivery has issued a note to all the team in Control. He has asked them to be as proactive as possible when it comes to holding Newbury connections for the shuttle to Bedwyn and to also give staff (and therefore passengers) as much notice of platform changes as possible. As it is a busy corridor, with no bay platform, there is limited potential for holds and while Control will be proactive – this does not mean that we will be able to hold services, but they will try. They will also have a look at the 11.27 in particular and see if there is anything that can be done to stop the regular late platform change.
  • Their Head of Customer Experience is setting up a meeting with the Newbury stations team to see how they can better support them and to make sure that we have a knowledgeable presence on the platform to help.
  • GWR has also advised that it is very likely they’ll be able to operate the 15.07 Paddington to Bedwyn and 16.41 Bedwyn to Paddington as through trains again from 28 June.

Please keep us posted with any connection problems you have at Newbury.

Please always check the online timetable before travel. As this is an ongoing situation the timetables are being revised weekly and this means that ‘next week’s’ timetable tends to show services through to Paddington up until a few days beforehand when it gets updated to the shuttles.

A question…

We are hoping that GWR can find some more trains to improve our service. In particular, we’d like to see the Newbury shuttle become a Reading shuttle. This would require an extra Turbo train which they currently don’t have available. If this situation drags on for many more weeks would you prefer it if

  1. things were kept as they are; or
  2. we ask GWR to run our current Turbo to Reading (forming a two-hourly service) with a Newbury, Kintbury, Hungerford rail replacement bus filling in the missing hour?

Email the BTPG on info@bedwyntrains.org.uk with your views.

Transwilts

TransWilts (www.transwilts.org, a Community Rail Partnership which supports the Swindon to Westbury service route, is keen to see a Community Rail Partnership (CRP) for the Newbury to Westbury route representing Kintbury, Hungerford, Bedwyn, Pewsey and the proposed Devizes Parkway. You can read more about CRPs at www.communityrail.org.uk.

Bill and I at Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group, propose that if this goes ahead, nothing will change in how we represent users of Bedwyn Station. We’re also happy to continue to represent Kintbury and Hungerford in terms of the level of train service these two stations get. One of the aims of this CRP will be two get an all stops hourly Newbury to Westbury service. Bill and I agree with this aim but have made it clear that this must not affect our direct services to Reading and Paddington.

If you wish to represent Kintbury or Hungerford in this proposed CRP then please get in touch and we’ll forward your details.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).

Dear Steve

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. 

Best wishes

Mark

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.

Email the BTPG on info@bedwyntrains.org.uk. You can also visit the BTPG website here.

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3 Responses

  1. The real solution would be for the Cardiff to Penzance route to keep the Castle sets (only refurbished 2 years ago) until a more long term solution can be found. This then keeps the IETs for Bedwyn and means there are no issues further down the line.

  2. Thanks for all your hard work. As someone who has only recently moved to Hungerford and who needs to go into London on a regular basis I’m dismayed by the proposals.

  3. I hope you won’t get rid of the Turbos!

    They’re the only half-way decent train on which one can take one’s bike.

    The so-called ‘bike space’ in the Hitachi trains is appalling: far too cramped, and with this crazy idea that one must hang up one’s bike…. I mean, really!

    Having to hang up one’s bike is not only bad for the bike wheel, it’s pretty much impossible if one is not physically strong.

    What is even more illogical is that there is in fact unused space in the Hitachis (I was told there were kitchen areas which were hardly if ever used….) and what about turning some of that under-used First Class section into extra un-partitioned space for things like luggage, pushchairs – and for bikes!

    And like what the good old Turbo trains have.

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