COTSWOLD Line rail passengers could see more and faster trains as early as next year, they were told on Saturday.
Train operator First Great Western’s franchise bid director Matthew Golton told the annual meeting of the Cotswold Line Promotion Group that proposals for an enhanced service from May 2015 had been submitted to the Department for Transport.
It is understood these could include additional trains on the section of the line through West Oxfordshire, provided by extending some services between Oxford and London to run to and from Charlbury or Moreton-in-Marsh, in Gloucestershire.
Subject to DfT consent, the company hopes to begin consultation on its proposals shortly.
Mr Golton told the meeting, held in Moreton-in-Marsh, that the aim was to improve Cotswold Line services in advance of the introduction of new InterCity Express Programme (IEP) bi-mode, electro-diesel trains on the line from 2017, following electrification of the Oxford-London route, and to cope with continued growth in passenger traffic.
He said the number of journeys made using Cotswold Line stations had grown by 43 per cent since 2009-10, up from 3.6 million journeys then to 5.2 million in the past 12 months.
He added: “We have been looking very hard at what we can achieve with the [fast-accelerating] Class 180 Adelante trains and how we can get from here to 2017-18. We have drawn up what we regard as an exciting package.
“It does have faster journey times and it does have service extensions. It does fill some of the key gaps in the current timetable, but not all.”
And Shipton station will see a better spread of services on Saturdays from December this year, with mid-morning and early afternoon trains to Oxford and London and an early afternoon train back.
CLPG chairman John Ellis raised passengers’ concerns about the use since last summer of a 280-seat Adelante, instead of a 500-seat High Speed Train, on the busy 3.52pm train from London Paddington to Oxford and Worcester, due to an overhaul programme for the HST fleet.
He said: “We understand the dilemma faced by FGW in having to remove a set for heavy maintenance, but people using this service are equally understandably angry with the conditions on board this train.”
Mr Golton said that the company had to take tough choices, as the HSTs needed to be given life-extension work, due to delays to the IEP project.
He added: “We very much regret the situation with the 3.52pm and continue to think how we might bring relief to that train, but it is a by-product of the situation we find ourselves in.”
- The meeting also heard that FGW’s Cotswold Line stations manager, Teresa Ceesay, will retire in August, after seven years in the post and 15 years working for the company.