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Update on Chiltern Railway Services

posted 3 Feb 2013, 03:12 by Tomo   [ updated 13 Feb 2013, 12:15 ]
One of our Executive Committee members is also a member of the Chiltern Railways passenger board, and here are some notes from the recent Passenger Board meeting held at the end of January.

Review of December 2012 Timetable Change


Chiltern recently made some significant changes to their timetable in December 2012. The primary purpose of the timetable was to try and even out the timetable on the mainline (Marylebone - High Wycombe - Birmingham), and create a clock face timetable pattern for both peak and off-peak periods. Normally this might not have affected the Metropolitan Line but coupled with the need to run more services to Aylesbury Vale Parkway where the build out housing developments are now moving forward, this also necessitated a change in the northbound running times on the Met Line. Chiltern Railways ran a formal consultation about the proposed timetable back in June 2012 and you can see Chorleywood Residents’ Association response here

In terms of feedback about the implementation of the timetable we raised the fact that we had communicated to Chiltern Railways management during the formal consultation and immediately before the timetable went live that the change to Northbound timetable was a significant change for passengers who had become accustomed to :27 and :57 departures from Marylebone, and we had suggested several times to get some extra posters produced just for Met Line stations to highlight this change. Chiltern Railways were reminded that Met Line stations have no CIS (Customer Information Systems) and northbound platforms are isolated from the ticket offices. Chiltern Railways took away an action to work more closely with TfL.

There were significant issues arising from the new timetable for passengers at Haddenham and Princes Risborough where Chiltern took a very late decision to reverse proposed fare increases due to the strength of feeling.

Recent Performance

Chiltern had been badly affected by a couple of very bad infrastructure failures on the Metropolitan Line in December, the worst of which was on the 5th December (read more about this in our Underground update) when the line was closed between Rickmansworth and Amersham for most of an evening.

The recent snow and cold bad weather had also had an effect on performance. Unlike some other train operators Chiltern continued with their full timetable and managed where they could to maintain the timetable. This resulted in several trains being damaged due to operation in snowy and cold conditions and has had the resulting impact of trains being out of use and more short formed trains cropping up on their services than usual.

Their mainline trains (silver trains) have some ongoing reliability issues and efforts are being redoubled to get to the bottom of these. Although these are not seen on the Met Line the failure of one of these and it blocking the line to Birmingham has a network wide impact with trains and drivers being in the wrong places.

Projects

The extension of the mainline from Bicester to Oxford which was approved in October 2012 has been called in for review, due to potential contamination of an SSSI (site of special scientific interest). Although this project seems to be far removed from Chorleywood and the concerns of Metropolitan Line users, it is in fact a first step in the construction of the East-West Rail Link which could see the line from Chorleywood through to Aylesbury being extended up to connect with services to Bedford, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Didcot and Reading avoiding London.

Of closer and more immediate relevance for Met Line users, Chiltern had also been hoping to improvement passenger information point in Marylebone Station. Internally known as the “Wendy House” and located outside WH Smith on the main concourse, the proposals to upgrade this have unfortunately been rejected by Westminster planners in terms of listed building consent. Back to the drawing board.

May 2013 timetable

The biggest development in many years in terms of timetable aspirations for the Metropolitan Line is that Chiltern Railways are considering improving their Sunday service from hourly to half hourly. We most recently formally requested that Chiltern Railways consider this in our response to the consultation for the December 2012 timetable, but this has been an ongoing aspiration over many years and it has been discussed at the Chiltern Railways Passenger Board on many previous occasions over the past decade. It would appear that the change to the London Underground Metropolitan line timetable to an all stations off peak service has led to Chiltern getting considerable feedback, in addition to our stakeholder input, about the inadequacy of the Sunday hourly service and we look forward to confirmed proposals for the augmented timetable. We’ve since pointed out that if they go ahead with this proposal to improve the Sunday timetable then Saturday evening 8pm to midnight will be the only time during the week when there’s not a half hourly service, and this should also be considered. We will continue to liaise and keep you updated on developments. At the moment this timetable change is not confirmed.

Other focus points for the May timetable will be journey times on the main line (some of the stated goals of the Evergreen Two upgrade have been diluted), whether the Stratford upon Avon parkway station (under construction) will have a Chiltern Railways service, and some improvements for late night services at Wembley Stadium to pick up passengers after events there.

Chiltern Railways continues to be an important transport provider to Chorleywood, especially as London Underground's current strategy is to devalue the service for their passengers outside Zone 6, and we will continue to work with them.

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