Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of Great Western Railway, has sent out this notice today:
Dear Henley Herald Readers
You will have seen that a number of train operators have introduced temporary timetables as a result of increased sickness and self-isolation due to the rise in Covid cases. You may also be aware that we have had a number of ad hoc, short notice cancellations recently, as we are also managing with much reduced staffing levels.
As a result, from this Saturday 8 January, we are introducing a temporary timetable, which will run through to Saturday 15 January. During the week we will assess the situation and if necessary will continue with a temporary timetable. We will review weekly as we are hopeful that this is a short-lived measure with a quick return to full services.
We have prioritised high use school and college services and key worker services, protecting them as much as we can. We have also focused changes where it will help us to release train crews. This means we can give customers greater confidence that their services will run. The vast majority of our services will continue to operate as planned.
The full list of changes is on our website on www.gwr.com/timetables along with advice to customers. We have also worked with Network Rail to make sure that the changes are in the national database, so online journey planners are accurate from today. If we make further changes beyond 15 January, these will show in journey planners from 12 January.
We are also contacting customers who have booked onto services we 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, and we will be issuing traditional and social media updates and doing all we can to alert customers to the planned changes.
Any help you can give in spreading the message about the changes would be great – simply retweeting our @GWRHelp messages or reminding people to check before they travel on https://www.journeycheck.com/greatwesternrailway/ would be great. It is worth noting that since the return to working from home, and the rise in Covid cases, we have seen customer numbers drop back to 57% of pre-pandemic levels.
We have been very grateful for all the support and understanding you have previously shown when we have needed to make changes like this. We had very much hoped that we would be able to continue with the full timetable, that has not proved possible, and it is important that we make these changes so that we can provide the best service possible to our customers and communities.
Neil Gunnell of the local Henley Trains rail user community adds: “These changes look like they will have small impact, with some shortened rush hour services and reduced opportunities to change at Slough to/from Paddington on faster services. However, as we now have the half hourly branch services, our services should still give more flexibility than of late. Queries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org”