First Great Western (FGW) has been awarded the new franchise to run services out of London Paddington and one of their first acts was to inform our colleagues in the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group that in May 2017 all Bedwyn to London services will be replaced by Newbury to London electric trains (EMUs) and Bedwyn to Newbury diesel shuttles (DMUs). This means that the hourly stopping service that starts at Bedwyn station will always terminate at Newbury, requiring passengers to alight at one platform, then cross over the bridge to the other platform, to wait for a train that will take them to Reading or London. This is likely to add up to 20 minutes to each journey. It should be noted that there are no facilities for disabled people at Newbury station - so it is unclear how wheelchair users, for example, will be able to access these trains.
FGW say they have 'committed to maintain at least one through peak service (from Westbury) in each direction. Bedwyn, Kintbury and Hungerford will not therefore lose all their direct trains'. Commuters from the Marlborough area, currently enjoy three direct train services to London Paddington, between 0540 and 0841 and three return services, between 1706 and 1835, with more hourly, direct services throughout the day, so this is a massive cut to our essential services.
According to the Guardian, FGW had originally declined to continue operating the western rail network after 2013 to avoid paying around £800m in premiums, the government has now reduced these premiums to just £68 million. This means that £732 million will now be paid to share holders, rather than provide the £75.1 million needed to electrify the line between Newbury and Bedwyn, see ARUP Report: Reviewing the Case for Extending Great Western Electrification.
In a recent letter, Claire Perry M.P. says that she has written to FGW to request that they introduce battery-powered trains, that can also run under electric wires, to replace the diesel turbo trains, by December 2018. However, even if this plan goes ahead we will still be without the majority of our direct trains between May 2017 and December 2018.
You will have the opportunity to express your views at the Election Hustings at St John's School on 15th April, starting at 7.30pm.