Worcester’s MP Robin Walker met yesterday (24th April) with Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood to press for service improvements on the line between Worcester and London Paddington.
The line has been beset by reliability issues in recent months, with a number of Worcester commuters contacting Robin to pass on their concerns and call for an urgent improvement in performance.
GWR explained that a number of recent issues have caused delays to travellers on the line, with the primary cause being setbacks in training drivers on new Intercity Express Trains (IETs), as well as late delivery of the new trains, older trains going out of service and signalling and power issues.
Today Great Western acknowledged that recent performance had not been good enough and apologised to Robin’s affected constituents in Worcester. In response to lobbying by Robin and his fellow South Worcestershire MPs Harriett Baldwin and Nigel Huddleston, GWR have taken a number of steps to address delays and cancellations, including speeding up driver training – which is now complete at the Worcester depot. 25 of the 36 new Express trains have now been delivered, and from May of this year the launch of the first Crossrail routes in the London area will free up a number of drivers to add to GWR service rosters.
From September 2018, many of the new part-electric IETs will be able to be stabled and charged overnight in Worcester, improving resilience on the line by reducing the current reliance of long-distance empty train movements. Crucially, the charging process will generate no noise pollution, which has been an issue with trains docked at Shrub Hill station previously.
At today’s meeting in Parliament, Mr Hopwood also gave assurances that communication with customers is to be improved. A number of local user groups are being consulted and meet regularly with GWR management, and ‘Meet the Manager’ events are to be held at a number of local stations with details to be advertised on station noticeboards. Compensation is payable for delays over 30 minutes or an hour depending on service, and season ticket holders will get automatic discounts on renewal if punctuality targets have not been met.
Speaking after the meeting, Robin said:
“I was glad to have the opportunity to meet with Great Western’s management and press for service improvements today. A good number of my constituents rely on these services to commute to work and visit friends and family and I know how important reliability is to individuals and businesses and so I have been clear with the operator that recent delays and cancellations have not been good enough.”
“Great Western accept this and have set out a number of measures that should see reliability now improving. The new depot at Worcester, which has become the first hub to complete driver training on the new Intercity Express Trains, recognises the importance of the North Cotswold line and I look forward to an opportunity to visit and see the improvements for myself shortly.”
“I continue to push for more frequent services on the line, as well as for getting the journey time between Worcester and London under two hours – a long-standing campaign of mine that I have made clear I would like to see delivered as soon as possible. I am encouraged to hear that a new local stakeholder group headed by Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is also working on making the economic case for further improvements on the Cotswold line.”
“Great Western remain a key partner in the development of the new Worcestershire Parkway station which is still on track to open next year, and I look forward to seeing the improvements in reliability, performance and journey times that my constituents have been calling for and which GWR assure me are being delivered.”
Notes to editors
For Robin’s previous statements on rail improvements in Worcester, see: