IN the week when train fares rose by 3.6 per cent – the highest rise since 2013 – Great Western Railway (GWR) launched new trains providing 8,000 extra seats.
The introduction of new rolling stock promises 10 per cent more seats – a total of 4,800 – in and out of Paddington and an extra 20 per cent, totalling 3,000 more seats, through Bristol Temple Meads during peak periods.
The GWR fleet of 45 Electrostar trains replaced the majority of the 25-year-old fleet operating in the region.
The new trains will run in eight and 12-carriage formations, providing up to 30 per cent more seats on key journeys.
GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “January 2 marks a massive step towards delivering the capacity improvements we have promised and the most significant series of improvements for rail passengers in a generation.
“Electric trains will run under the wires between Didcot and London for the first time, delivering real improvements for our passengers in London and the Thames Valley and enabling us to make further improvements throughout our network, supporting the communities we serve.
“Let me also take this opportunity to thank our passengers for their patience during the Christmas period, as Network Rail continue Crossrail works, and its programme to modernise the Great Western.”
This improvement in capacity coincides with a 3.6-per-cent fare hike, which sees a yearly season ticket from Newbury to London Paddington increase from £4,676 to £4,844 – a rise of £168.
Train companies justified this hike by pointing to improvements to the service, such as the electrification of the railway and the new Intercity Express Programme (IEP).
The rail delivery group, which acts on behalf of train companies, also emphasise that 97 per cent of money from fares goes back into improving and running the railway with only three pence in the pound as profit.
Former train driver and independent rail commentator for the Thames Valley Hugh Jaeger said: “I’m concerned that people are being priced off the railway.
“Passenger numbers have grown at pretty much every station on the Kennet Valley line.
“But there’s been a shift in growth in passengers to the west away from London.
“They just can’t afford to live where they work, so behind the figures of growing passengers, there’s this social exclusion forcing people further out.”
Network Rail Western Route managing director Mark Langman said: “This is another major step forward in the biggest-ever transformation on the Great Western Mainline as we deliver more trains, more seats and better journeys for communities across the route.”