The Anonymous Widower

Reading For Lunch On TfL Rail

On Sunday, TfL Rail took over the services between Paddington and Reading via Maidenhead.

The pictures show that there is still a lot of work to do to get a complete step-free Western Branch of Crossrail.

I walked to Carluccio’s at Reading, which is about a kilometre. It would be closer, if Reading had decent maps like other civilised towns or cities.

These are my comments about the new TfL Rail service.

Competitive Ticketing On TfL Rail

I would expect services on TfL Rail will be competitively priced and some details are given on this page on the TfL web site, which is entitled TfL Rail Will Operate Services To Reading From 15 December.

Freedom Passes

I can use my Freedom Pass all the way to Reading for a cost of precisely nothing.

  • There are lots of places along the line, where holders might go to enjoy themselves.
  • Freedom Pass holders can take children with them on some rail services in London. Will they be able to do this on TfL Rail?
  • Freedom Pass holders like to extract maximum benefit from their passes.

But it won’t be long before canny holders, realise that other places like these are just an extension ticket away.

  • Basingstoke – £4.50
  • Henley-on-Thames – £2.65
  • Marlow – £3.10
  • Newbury or Newbury Racecourse – £4.50
  • Oxford – £6.65
  • Winchester – £11.55
  • Windsor – £1.90
  • Woking – £9.75

I included Winchester, as that is where my granddaughter lives.

Will Freedom Pass holders take advantage?

  • This is not a rip-off offer, but a chasm in the fare regulations.
  • There are some good pubs and restaurants by the Thames.

They will take advantage in hoards.

Reverse Commuters

On my trip to Harrogate, I met a guy, who told me, that Reading has difficulty attracting workers for high-tech businesses.

I suspect that the new service might encourage some reverse commuting.

Will some Freedom Pass holders take advantage?

  • I know a lot of people still working, who commute within London on a Freedom Pass.
  • Not all Freedom Pass holders are pensioners. For instance, I would have been eligible because I lost my Driving Licence, when my eyesight was ruined by a stroke.

As the pictures show, there is a lot of offices going up around the station in Reading.

Access To The Thames

The route between Paddington and Reading gives access to the River Thames at the following places.

  • Windsor from Slough
  • Marlow from Maidenhead
  • Henley from Twyford.
  • Reading
  • Oxford from Reading

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the route being used extensively by leisure travellers to explore and visit London’s principle river.

Connection To Central London

When Crossrail opens to Central London, this must surely result in a large increase in cummuter, leisure and tourist traffic.

Indian Sub-Continent Families

There are a lot of people with roots in the Indian sub-continent living along the route between Paddington and Reading.

Note that Southall station is one of a small group of English stations with bilingual signage. At Southall the signs are in both English and Punjabi.

I feel, that strong family, cultural and religious ties will mean, that this large group will use the trains of TfL extensively in their daily lives.

Train Frequency

It was a Sunday, and the train had perhaps sixty percent of the seats taken.

I have this feeling that this route could suffer from London Overground Syndrome and that passenger numbers will rise much higher than the most optimistic forecasts, because of the factors I outlined in previous sections.

  • Competitive Ticketing On TfL Rail
  • Freedom Passes
  • Reverse Commuters
  • Indian Sub-Continent Families
  • Access To The Thames
  • Connection To Central London

This leads me to predict that this line will need a full four trains per hour (tph) service as far as Reading before the end of 2021 and not just in the Peak Hours.

Connections To The Branches

On my journey to and from Reading,, I didn’t see any trains on the four branches, that have the following frequencies.

  • Greenford – Two tph
  • Windsor – Three tph
  • Marlow – One tph
  • Henley – Two tph

Surely, as the current TfL Rail service has a frequency of two tph to Reading, it should interface better with the Greenford and Henley branches.

It appears to me, that there is scope for a better timetable and increased frequency on some of the branches.

Or is the current timetable geared to making profits in the cafes and coffee stalls at the interchange stations?

My timetable would be as follows.

  • Greenford – Four tph
  • Windsor – Four tph
  • Marlow – Two tph – Timed to be convenient for Reading services.
  • Henley – Two tph – Timed to be convenient for Reading services.

If the Crossrail and branch service are both four tph or better and there are reasonable facilities, I suspect that will work reasonably well.

But the higher the frequency the better!

Train Performance

On my trip, the Class 345 train was stretching its legs to the West of West Drayton and I recorded a speed of 90 mph.

Their performance doesn’t seem to be much slower than Great Western Railways 110 mph Class 387 trains.

Ticketing

From what I’ve seen, ticketing on this line needs to be augmented.

What is currently, in place will work for Londoners and those that live close to the line.

But would it work for tourists and especially those for whom English is not their first language, who want to visit Oxford and Windsor?

There would appear to be a need for a ticket which allowed the following.

  • Use of TfL Rail between West Drayton and Reading.
  • Slough and Windsor
  • Maidenhead and Marlow
  • Twyford and Henley
  • Reading and Oxford

Could it be called a Thames Valley Ranger?

The alternative would be to bring all the routes into London’s contactless payments system.

But would this mean complicated wrangling over ticket revenue between TfL Rail and Great Western Railway?

There certainly needs to be a simple ticketing system at Slough, so that passengers can purchase a return to Windsor.

The only ways at present are.

  • Buy a ticket at Paddington to Windsor.
  • Leave Slough station and buy a return ticket to Windsor.

Something much better is needed.

Crossrail To Oxford

Because of Network Rail’s l;ate delivery of the electrification West of Reading, the services have ended up as less than optimal.

I think eventually, services to Oxford, will be reorganised something along these lines.

  • Crossrail will be extended to Oxford.
  • Fast services to and from London would be the responsibility of Great Western Railway. The frequency would be at least two tph.
  • CrossCountry fast services would continue as now.
  • Stopping services to and from London would be the responsibility of Crossrail
  • Stations between Reading and Oxford, with the exception of Didcot Parkway would only be served by Crossrail.

The Crossrail service to Oxford would have the following characteristics.

  • Four tph
  • The service would terminate in a South-facing bay platform at Oxford station.
  • Pssible battery operation between Didcot Parkway and Oxford.
  • The service would have a dedicated pair of platforms at Reading.

There would possibly be a ticketing problem, but as there would be separation of fast and stopping services, I feel that a good solution can be created, which would allow changing between the fast and stopping services at Reading. So commuters from somewhere like Cholsey could either go Crossrail all the way to and from London or change to a faster train at Reading.

Conclusion

I am led to the conclusion, that this service will be overwhelming popular.

But the ticketing leaves much to be desired.

 

December 17, 2019 - Posted by | Food, Transport | , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. I do find it a little bit annoying that older Londoners can get to Reading for free but I can’t. There are no longer any bus services from Basingstoke so my bus pass won’t let me get there for free without a very round about trip.

    Comment by Kevin Roche | December 18, 2019 | Reply

    • I totally agree with you! Perhaps all counties ought to have their own Freedom Pass. I know you’re in Hampshire, but I’m sure something could be devised.

      How about a Thames Valley Freedom Pass. The area could be bounded by something like Oxford, Maidenhead, Ascot, Basingstoke, Newbury and Didcot Parkway?

      Rules would be as for London’s Freedom Pass!

      I shall work, this through and also one for a Suffolk Freedom Pass, which is a county, I know well!

      Comment by AnonW | December 18, 2019 | Reply

  2. It would be great to be able to travel by train to Reading and Oxford for free. When I first moved to Basingstoke I used the bus to Reading quite often, but it soon became more and more difficult to use the local buses as the services were cut back and I had to learn to drive. I used to drive to Oxford quite a lot but I have tried that a couple of times since I got an electric car only to find the charging point I planned to use broken and not working. First world problems…

    Comment by kroche53 | December 19, 2019 | Reply

    • I have had other comments about service around Reading and the main problem would appear to be the late delivery of the electrification.

      I don’t know your age, but feel that we could see Freedom Pass style tickets in several places in the future for those over 60-65.

      By the way, I’ve seen vandalised charging points in a few places, including in Europe.

      Comment by AnonW | December 19, 2019 | Reply

  3. The Thames Branches Day Ranger ticket has been around for as long as I can remember. It does not need inventing, but publicising! Valid on TfL-Rail and GWR.

    The branch frequencies are difficult to increase, due to the branches being singled, the duplicate terminal platforms and passing places were removed during the late 1960’s and 1970’s. BR was very keen to cut the surviving branch lines down to the very bare minimum to reduce costs. Windsor and Henley branches sometimes get 3 car trains during very busy periods.

    GWR have set up their branches to connect with their GWR Didcot-Paddington service. This decision was taken with feedback from the branch line user groups that weren’t at all keen on losing the fully equipped GWR Electrostars for the daily commute. It should also be noted that Greenford, Marlow and Henley all lost their direct Paddington trains to allow for the future full Crossrail timetable on the relief line. Of course, the full Crossrail timetable requires the central operating section to be open!

    Today’s released ’18-’19 passenger figures are showing 10%+ increases in passenger numbers at some of at the western TfL-Rail stations (with the previous GWR Electrostar train service). ‘Sparks effect’ in action.

    Comment by Paul | January 14, 2020 | Reply


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