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Local MP writes to Great Western Railway ahead of December changes

Picture credited to Great Western Railway

Newbury's MP says he's going to remain in contact with Great Western Railway, after pushing the operator on its to planned fare and timetable changes.

Richard Benyon's written to GWR, as it gets ready to make its biggest amends to services for years in December.

Amongst the changes is the start of TFL Rail run trains from Reading, which will eventually become part of the Elizabeth Line.

Mr Benyon's urged GWR to make sure there are prices and services which are accessible to all passengers:

"I was pleased to be able to negotiate special off peak rates several years ago on some of our local services and it is disappointing that GWR has now decided to take this concession away.

"My understanding is that this is to bring services in the Kennet valley into line with their charging policy in other areas.

"There will be other options including cheaper advance fares and I have pushed for a larger allocation of these discounted tickets to be available to customers in West Berkshire.

"Off peak tickets will still be valid on TfL Rail trains to Reading which stop more frequently but run four times an hour.

"Overall it is still the case that the new timetable will provide more trains with more seats and shorter journeys.

"I will remain in close contact with GWR and will keep my website updated as and when I hear more."

(Above: Richard Benyon - Newbury MP)

Great Western Railway sent this letter to the Newbury MP in response to the concerns he raised:

Dear Richard

Thank you for raising your concerns about changes to off peak fares at stations in your constituency.

For some time, we have had an easement in the Kennet Valley that has allowed off peak fares at peak time.

This relates back to the days of Thames Trains and the decision to differentiate between turbo stopping services and faster high speed trains to Reading.

In December TfL Rail will take over 50% of GWR services through to Reading and will continue to offer off peak fares on the stopping trains, our remaining fast and semi fast services, including those for Bedwyn and Hungerford will operate on peak fares.

This brings the services in line with fares already being paid elsewhere. This does not affect season ticket holders who can already travel on peak services for no extra charge.

We do recognise however that this is a significant change for customers who do not travel regularly enough to benefit from a season ticket.

We have therefore recently introduced Advance tickets on the route.

These are heavily discounted, and are quota controlled.

They can therefore sell out, and we would not normally offer these on peak time services.

However, given that we are no longer offering a fares easement on peak services I have asked our Revenue team to ensure that there are good quotas on peak and off peak services.

In addition to this from December 15th customers being Advance tickets will be given a specific seat reservation.

This will guarantee them a seat for their journey.

If this is not provided and they have to stand we will refund their journey leg in full.

These tickets go on sale 12 weeks before travel and are now on sale for December and having looked on our website, gwr.com, today (16 October) for a journey on 16 December, there is a £24.50 single ticket available from Hungerford on the 0837, and a £19.50 ticket on the 1708 return. A total cost of £44.00.

As I noted above they do sell out and we recommend customers purchase as far ahead as possible.

Great Western Railway Milford House 1 Milford Street Swindon, SN1 1HL GWR.com 2 I do understand that there will be customers who prefer not to book in advance, and who would like all of the existing easements to continue.

We did look at this very closely, but given the improvements in the timetable, there is no longer any justification for us to offer a different peak journey time for these stations over all our other stations.

That said, we have reviewed the list of services included in peak restrictions and are making changes to allow off peak tickets on the 1907 service from London Paddington to Bedwyn.

This change will take around 72hrs to process into the relevant systems.

We need to do more to promote Advance fares, they are very new to the route, and I have also asked the team to look at how we might do that.

Thank you again for contacting me and I do hope that this has clarified the position.

Best wishes

Mark Hopwood

Managing Director

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