RAIL commuters will see their journey times cut with more seating available as a new train timetable comes into force.

Great Western Railway began operating its new timetable from Oxfordshire and Berkshire to London yesterday.

The changes will see journey times on key routes cut and seating capacity increased.

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Rail campaigners have welcomed the new timetable but warned that more investment was still needed for the county's rail service.

The Thames Valley branch of national campaigning group Railfuture said the 'economic powerhouse of Oxfordshire' still needed more from its rail service.

Branch chairman Richard Stow said: “Great Western Railway's new timetable is a big step forward in reducing journey times and adding capacity, if the timetable works as planned, and we welcome it.

"But in the longer term, more investment is still needed to persuade yet more people to switch to rail from the congested roads.”

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Typical journey times on the twice-hourly fast services between Oxford and London Paddington will be cut to 50-55 minutes from December.

The fastest trains connecting Oxford and the capital is just 44 minutes.

The journey time from Reading to London Paddington will be typically 22 minutes compared to 25-30 minutes at present, and some trains leaving London will no longer stop at Reading.

Newbury in neighbouring West Berkshire will see an electrification of the line and new trains as it gets two fast trains an hour to London Paddington throughout the day, and three trains an hour to Reading.

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Extra services will also operate over the North Cotswold line from Worcester to Paddington via Kingham, Charlbury, Hanborough and Oxford.

Banbury will get a new through service to Paddington in the morning peak time, returning in the evening at peak time – with a fast journey time of just over one hour.

Electrification of the Didcot-Oxford route, part of the original plans but now scaled back, depends on a decision to increase track capacity between the two centres, with redevelopment of Oxford station to provide more platforms also part of long-term proposals.

Richard Stow added that more needed to be done for passengers and said: “We are keeping our fingers crossed this superb new timetable works.

“In the longer term we would like to see four tracks between Didcot and Oxford, and re-doubling of the entire Cotswold line between Oxford and Hanborough.

"A new station is also needed at Wantage/Grove Science Parkway, and re-opening of the Cowley branch to maximise the benefits to all residents and businesses of the county.”

The new timetable can be viewed by visiting gwr.com