Matthew Golton, Interim Managing Director, Great Western Railway, writes:
Dear Henley Herald Readers
“I promised to keep you up to date on our timetable changes. We have a new timetable starting on Sunday 13 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
“Our rationale has been to produce a timetable that is robust and reliable, that our customers can count on, and that our teams can deliver. This will be challenging.
“As with any business Covid-19 is impacting on our available staff numbers and our teams are working very hard to keep services running on time. I am very proud of all they have done, and really grateful for the support our stakeholders and partners have given us as we have built back services and built back rail travel.
“As you know as part of our support for Network Rail’s improvement work around Didcot, Oxford and London Paddington and in recognition of the impact the Covid has had on our driver training programme, some weekend services will finish earlier on Saturday evenings, and start later on Sunday mornings. These services are lightly used currently, and by making this proactive decision now, we have been able to improve the ability to deliver important rail enhancement works during 2021. It will also mean we can reduce the potential for ad hoc and late notice cancellations.
“We have made some revisions to the plans we discussed based on comments from local rail groups, for instance on the Thames Valley branch lines (Henley, Marlow and Windsor) start up times on Sunday mornings are around an hour earlier than previously planned. This still allows Network Rail additional access time on Saturday nights, but there is a better balance for customers needing to travel on Sunday mornings.
“If 2020 has taught us anything however, we know that predicting the future is not easy, and while we will be working hard to maintain this timetable through to May 2021, we may need to make further changes during the course of the timetable. If that happens, we will keep you informed and we will work with you, and the Department for Transport, to make sure that we are delivering a safe and efficient railway, doing the best we can for our customers and for the communities that rely on us.
“Thank you again for all your help and support this year. It has been a real boost for our staff to know that their efforts are appreciated, and you have my assurance that we will keep doing all we can to keep communities connected and to play our role in economic renewal and recovery.”
Neil Gunnell, hub for the Henley Trains rail community group, notes:
“Thank you again to GWR for involving local communities in planning. We note the longer overnight railway closures on Saturday night and Sunday mornings and warn local users to check the timetables when planning travel. You can join our group for updates by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter @Henleytrains for weekday disruption.”