The news that GWR plans to withdraw three Intercity Express Trains from the Paddington-Bedwyn line with consequent reductions to the direct train service itself, is deeply disappointing. I know how much work my predecessor Richard Benyon and Claire Perry, the former MP for Devizes, put into securing improvements to this service some years ago and the difference this made to the lives of residents of Hungerford and Kintbury.
I have received significant correspondence from residents concerned by GWR’s proposed new timetable from May, which reduces direct services from Paddington (particularly in the evening) and will result in passengers having to make one, or sometimes two, changes as part of their travel.
Given the importance of this issue, I am doing all that I can to oppose, or at the very least to mitigate the consequences of, these changes. In the last fortnight, I have met with the Rail Minister Wendy Morton and Mark Hopwood, the Manging Director of GWR. I have also spoken to representatives of the excellent Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group. GWR told us that the removal of the three Intercity Express Trains is necessary to make cost savings but that they hope and intend to be able to restore services to their current level in the future when finances allow. GWR will also be adjusting the timetable from December onwards to improve connections at Newbury, following a recognition that current connection options are slow and inconvenient.
In the meantime, Danny Kruger MP and I have asked them to look again at timetabling, particularly in the evening. It is striking that the current proposal for May involves two direct trains from Paddington to Bedwyn at half hour intervals shortly after 6pm and then no direct service until after 10 pm. I have suggested that GWR look again at the evening timetable and specifically running the service at better intervals across the evening and specifically the 19.07 direct train. I heard from the Rail Minister as I was preparing this article that GWR have agreed to my request to restore the 19.07 direct service from Paddington – however I will continue to press them on a better evening timetable. I am meeting GWR again in the week after Easter and I will update residents of the outcome on my Facebook and website.
I fully recognise how important this issue is for many people across the local area. With many in the Hungerford and Kintbury now returning to work in London on a more regular basis or travelling to London for family or social reasons, the proposals will make travel to and from London less convenient. I agree with my constituents that it undermines the wider environmental objective to get people out of their cars and onto public transport. As such, I will continue to press GWR to reconsider their proposals to ensure our communities do not lose out.