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Robert Courts MP-Ask the GWR Event Briefing - Thursday 8th February 2018   ()

I am writing to provide you with a briefing on the main points that were discussed in my recent “Ask the GWR” event, which was held at the Memorial Hall in Charlbury on 8th February 2018.

However, I would like to first highlight once again that the Government has launched a public consultation asking for views on future services across the Great Western network.  Responding to this consultation is the best way for us to communicate our views to the Department for Transport and GWR on how services can be improved, and what we want GWR to prioritise going forward.  Information about this consultation, which closes on 21st February, can be found online at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/great-western-rail-franchise.  I would greatly encourage you to respond to this consultation, as the more responses we submit, the louder and stronger our collective voice. 

“Ask the GWR” Thursday, 8th February 2018 - Briefing

Panel

Chair: Robert Courts MP

Great Western Railway: Jane Jones, Head of Public Affairs

                  Tom Pierpoint, Regional Development Manager

                  Claire King, North Cotswolds Station Manager

Network Rail: Toby Elliott, Senior Public Affairs Manager 

 

Acronym key

GWR – Great Western Railway

NR – Network Rail

NCL – North Cotswold Line 

Main points of discussion

-       Performance over Christmas and New Year period: GWR were very apologetic about the inconveniences that have been caused to rail users either by the effect of cancellations or delays along the North Cotswold Line.  They explained that these have been in large part due to a shortage of staff trained to operate the new Intercity Express Trains (IETs); this shortage was down to the re-timing of track electrification, meaning drivers have not had the time to learn how to operate the new trains on this new system.  GWR acknowledged that this is unacceptable, and that rail users deserve better.  They are working hard to train up drivers as quickly as possible to fix this problem and acknowledged concerns over value for money against this background.

-       North Cotswold Line Infrastructure: NR discussed issues caused by stretches of single-track on the NCL, as well as how older railway tracks – which we have along parts of the NCL – are especially vulnerable to the effects of bad weather.  However, NR outlined how NCL should benefit from a £7.5billion investment on infrastructure enhancement, which will be rolled out over the next 5 years.

-       Consulting communities on timetable improvements: GWR explained that timetables are determined by the Department for Transport (DfT) when they renew a franchise.  Therefore, the current consultation will inform any changes made to new timetable.  GWR stressed that if residents want to see changes to the current timetable, they should respond to the Government’s consultation and make this clear, as this is the best way to highlight what we want new timetable to be.

-      Lack of conductors and ticket machines along NCL: GWR explained they are working on putting in place more conductors on their services, but it is difficult for conductors to pass through an entire train before it reaches Oxford from NCL stations.  GWR are exploring the extension of smartphone ticketing, but have yet to make any official announcements about its rollout.  GWR has secured £8million from the Government to make ticket barriers card-enabled.

-       Cotswold Railcard: GWR explained that this railcard does still exist and is available to rail users, although highlighted that it is off-peak only.

-       Compensation timescales: GWR explained that they have recently changed customer service contractors so that all of this work is now UK-based, but acknowledge that the changeover has caused delays to the process of compensation for some individuals.  They are working hard to get up to speed on processing claims and apologise for any inconvenience caused.

-       Future plans for smaller stations:  GWR promised that the services that are currently provided to smaller stations will indeed continue.

-       Confusion regarding suitability of tickets:  GWR explained that multiple tickets with the same name or price may be caused by different routing options, and apologised if rail users found this confusing.

-       Re-instating Witney Railway Line: NR explained that when they have previously looked into this, they have determined it to be too expensive.  Nevertheless, NR will continue to examine all options.

-       Charlbury Station Garden Volunteer Group: GWR promised to provide the volunteers with the £3,000 they need to maintain the Charlbury Station Garden. 

Rest assured, this is a brief summary of what was discussed.  If you would like more information about any of the above points, or indeed about any other issues, please do write to me: I may be able to provide you with the information you require, or if I cannot provide it myself, I would be happy to write to either GWR or NR on your behalf.

Furthermore, if you have written to me about raising specific points with GWR or NR directly, I have written to the relevant authorities on your behalf and I will be back in touch once I have received responses from them.

There are many points that I have taken away from this meeting that will inform my work both in Parliament and across the constituency.  Please do let me know if you would like to be kept updated on what actions I take to campaign on the issues raised at this event, as I would be glad to keep you informed about this.

I hope you will find this information helpful.  I will host similar “Ask the…” events in the future, focusing on various matters here in West Oxfordshire.  If there is any issue you think should be the topic of one of these events, please do let me know as I would greatly appreciate hearing your ideas.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Courts MP                                 

Member of Parliament for Witney & West Oxfordshire