Have Your Say – Henley Branch Line Users Group

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Do you want to have a say in future plans

for the Henley Branch line?

Do you have comments on service?

Join the Henley Branch User Group!

I am posting this to dispel the myth that the Henley Branch Line Users Group (HBUG) is either self-serving or Henley centric.  In April 2014, John Howell, MP for Henley, convened two meetings so that local rail users could address their concerns to First Great Western (FGW) and Network Rail (NR).  A number of complaints and suggestions were aired and some of those present agreed to form a users’ group, along the lines of the Maidenhead and Marlow Passengers’ Association, which was formed some 30 years ago.  HBUG met informally until its first AGM in September.  Posters were placed at all stations on the branch line giving details of how to contact HBUG and advertising the AGM.  A local newspaper also ran articles about the formation of the group and the AGM. The lack of Wargrave representation was a matter of concern at the AGM, and noted in the minutes. In response to some of the points raised at the public meetings with FGW and NR, FGW offered an (extra) earlier Sunday service and an (extra) late night service which would mean that branch line users could go to the theatre in London and still get home by train.  This was a good start.  They also floated the idea of a half hourly service during the day time, which could only happen if the Wargrave stop was skipped on some alternate journeys.  FGW explained that the time it takes for diesel trains to speed up and slow down along the branch line means that a 30 minute service stopping all stations is not possible.  Some of those who attended the public AGM were enthusiastic about the possible 30 minute day time service, but the prospect of an hourly service instead of a 45 minute day time service met with predictable dismay in Wargrave.  However, it is simply not true to say that the proposal – and it is still only a proposal – means that no trains will stop in Wargrave during the day.

At this point, it is worth pointing out that there are 730,000 passenger movements through Henley, 90,000 through Shiplake and 90,000 through Wargrave, giving a total not far short of one million passenger movements on an annual basis.  The job of HBUG is to represent, as far as possible, all passengers using the branch line.  There are two points that I would like to make clear; first, any significant change to the existing timetable requires FGW to consult stakeholders, and HBUG is one of them.  Second, the really big issue we face is electrification and future service patterns with the introduction of Crossrail. The 2019 Baseline for the Western Route Study, as published in draft by Network Rail, states that there is a commitment to electrification of the Thames Valley Branch Lines, of which there are three: Henley-Twyford, Marlow-Maidenhead and Windsor-Slough. However this was expressed by the Secretary for State as a wish in the 2012 High Level Output Specification (HLOS) and the guidelines issued at the time stated that the money made available for the electrification project was a maximum. We have received information from Network Rail that the Branch Line Project has slipped because of the redeployment of resources for work on the main line. This raises concerns for the branch line electrification. If the study now being carried out shows that the project is not feasible with the budget that is available in the current period, and there is no provision for branch lie electrification in the next period, (2019-24) this means that electrification will only be considered after 2024.  This would mean that the branch line would be totally reliant on more or less obsolete diesel trains and when those trains die, the branch line would die with them.  For this reason, the primary focus of the HBUG group has to be electrification of the branch line and we will be actively campaigning for this to happen. There is no time to lose, and we have gone from a standing start to a serious campaign in six months.

Posters will be placed at all branch line stations, with information on how to join HBUG.

We are:

We’re here to support ALL users of the branch line and need YOUR views.

Best wishes,

Patricia Mulcahy

HBUG Chairman