In my Letter from Westminster for July, I wrote about the importance of Wycombe remaining a convenient place to live and work with good rail, road and air links. The final visit of my summer series of meetings with local transport operators was with Chiltern Railways. I enjoyed meeting the Managing Director of Chiltern Railways, Dave Penney, and his senior team for an informative morning last month.
I also took the opportunity to raise some questions sent in by constituents. Earlier this summer, I had received some tweets from regular travellers who had raised concerns about broken down and overcrowded trains as well as delayed services so I wanted to include those important matters in our discussions.
- Question: Concerns have been raised about the positioning of the trains departing from Platform 1 at High Wycombe station. The local Passengers Association suggest that this is due to the new footbridge/ lifts blocking the departure signals. Passengers now have a very long walk to reach their train and miss connections. What work is Chiltern undertaking (with Network Rail) to re-site the signals?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “a change to the design of the bridge requires trains to be in a certain position for the Driver to clearly see the signal. This could be rectified through the installation of a banner repeater (a repeat of the signal) allowing trains to be situated closer to the buffer stops on Platform 1 and we are in discussions with Network Rail to determine how and when this might happen.”
- Question: Concerns have been raised about the build-up of traffic leaving the station car park onto Credon Street/ Amersham Hill after the arrival of evening peak services. What work is Chiltern doing with other agencies to better manage the traffic flow from the car park?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “the exit of the station was redesigned for the launch of the multi-storey car park and new transport interchange at the station using future predictions of use. The work was conducted with the local authority planning department, relevant highways authorities, bus operators and bus specialists from the council. Part of the requirement was for buses to have priority and to trigger the lights to avoid delaying their service and we recognise that this may cause short term congestion if a train has just arrived at the station. We will consult with the Council to look at the extent of the issue.
- Question: The local Passengers Association raises concerns about overcrowding on some morning commuter trains from Wycombe to London. The Association notes that Chiltern Railways does monitor this situation. What work is Chiltern doing to try to resolve this issue?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “we recently conducted passenger counts and figures show that customers should not experience standing from High Wycombe during the morning peak if the trains are running to time. We will continue to monitor this and the impact of passengers boarding at later stations. Should there be a need, we will look at longer term interventions that could include changes to stopping patterns and train lengths.”
- Question: The local Passengers Association wishes that there are more bus connections from the station around Wycombe and the surrounding area. What work can Chiltern do with local bus companies to encourage more services to connect with local trains outside the station?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “we work closely alongside our colleagues from Arriva as well as Carousel (another bus company in High Wycombe) to make relevant improvements to the bus service at High Wycombe station. If there are particular services that the Passenger Association would like to see at the station, we would be happy to work with the bus companies and Buckinghamshire County Council to look at the feasibility of this.”
- Question: Some constituents believe that services to Oxford are prioritised over other Chiltern Railways services in the event of delays including stopping services from London Marylebone to Wycombe. Please assure me that Chiltern still recognise the importance of maintaining reliable stopping services from London to High Wycombe in addition to the Oxford service especially during periods of train disruption?
Answer: Chiltern responded “please be reassured that Oxford services are not prioritised over other services in the event of delays and our data reflects this. Depending on the disruption, contingency plans are tailored to the geographic area affected and the guidance is tailored to serve all normal routes, albeit on a restricted level.”
- Question: Season tickets from Wycombe are expensive with no reduction in the cost of season tickets for people travelling less than five days a week. Chiltern offers a Carnet ticket but for people working three days a week, it is still more expensive than a full-time season ticket. Would Chiltern consider implementing a three day a week season ticket for part time workers?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “as an industry, we are keen to offer value for money for fares, for example, annual season tickets offer 52 weeks of travel for the price of 40 weekly tickets and Chiltern offer Carnet tickets as an option for less frequent travellers which provide a 10% discount compared to the cost of daily Anytime tickets. Building on this, the industry is working with the government to pilot the idea of more flexible season tickets which better suits the needs of some passengers. Once completed this will help determine the way forward.
- Question: SIngle and return fares from Wycombe are expensive. A return fare between Wycombe to Aylesbury, a return fare is £8:60. What measures are being taken by Chiltern Railways to ensure that train fares are affordable to my constituents?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “fares are influenced by Government policy and around half are regulated. Alongside season tickets, that provide 52 weeks travel for the price of 40 weekly tickets and Carnet tickets, we are currently trialling Advance tickets in the Bucks area (currently from Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross) to assess the appetite for this type of ticket at stations close to London. These offer lower prices than traditional walk-up fares but have reduced flexibility. Depending on the success of the trial, these types of tickets will be rolled out to more Bucks stations.
- Question: Chiltern Railways suffered from a number of train failures during Summer 2017, leading to short formations often on peak services. What were the reasons for these failures, and what measures is Chiltern taking to ensure a full operational fleet for the coming months?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “earlier this year two 4 carriage trains suffered smashed windscreens. These carriages are unique and our supplier had to organise manufacture on our behalf. Frustratingly, this took longer than expected and the loss of these vehicles caused some peak trains to be shorter than usual. The two trains are now back in service and trains are their correct lengths again. We are holding additional stock of these windscreens to avoid a repeat of the situation.
- Question: In 2015, Chiltern Railways requested my support to preserve the High Wycombe Single Line between South Ruislip and the Great Western Mainline at Old Oak Common. I wrote to the Departmet of Transport highlighting the importance of High Wycombe being linked with HS2’s proposed Old Oak Common station. Can Chiltern Railways update me on the discussions about the future use of that line so High Wycombe can be connected to HS2?
Answer: Chiltern responded that “we appreciate your support and we continue to lobby for Chiltern to retain and develop access to Old Oak Common. We are working with the DfT, Network Rail, HS2 and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation to achieve this. This importance of the link from the Chiltern line to Old Oak Common is set out in Network Rail’s long-term planning document for the route (West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study) published in August 2017.
Thank you to Mr Penney and his staff for their hospitality and willingness to answer these important matters concerning rail travel from High Wycombe. If readers of this article from other constituencies have concerns about their railway service, please contact your own MP. I know Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross communities in particular have long-standing queries. These should be taken up with Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP by writing to him here.
For further information about Chiltern Railway’s services, please visit the Chiltern Railways website.