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Westminster Blog: Some pain, then more trains

Newbury MP Richard Benyon with good news and bad news about local rail service

Andy Murrill

Richard Benyon


01635 886625

Westminster Blog: Some pain, then more trains

Last week I held a meeting in my office at Westminster with representatives from Great Western Railway (GWR) and Network Rail. The upshot is good news and bad news.

The good news is that in about a year we will have more trains providing a better service to Newbury and West Berkshire.

We will have new Intercity Express trains with up to 24 per cent more seats than the current High Speed trains, and Electrostar trains with up to 57 per cent more seats, particularly on services at peak times where overcrowding is a problem.

I have been campaigning for electrification of the line to Bedwyn but accept that at this stage it will go to Newbury.

But I am delighted that the new trains will be “bi-mode”, meaning that at a flick of a switch they go from being electric powered to diesel so no traveller will have to switch trains at Newbury.

The new trains are ready to be used as soon as the necessary improvements to the rail network have been completed.

And that’s the bad news. 2018 will see some serious disruption as work is done to complete electrification and to deal with other modernisation requirements. 

Network Rail and GWR have announced three closures of the line to the west of Theale. 

These will be March 12 to 15, April 23 to 26 and June 4 to 7.  Over these periods buses will take passengers between Theale and Pewsey and season ticket holders will be allowed to travel from Didcot or Whitchurch without the need for another ticket.

I am doing my utmost to inform people about these dates and that there may be more closures required as work progresses.

I am doing all I can to see that disruption is minimalised but, like other passengers, I do see the huge benefits that we will get from the new trains, the increased services and the better travelling experience for all rail users. 

You can keep in touch with the progress and feed your thoughts to me at or on my Facebook page.

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Article comments

  • rexhora

    24/01/2018 - 10:10

    Intercity Express trains are bi-mode, but Electrostar trains are not, so passengers for Kintbury, Hungerford and Bedwyn will have to change at Newbury.


  • Art_E_Ficial

    23/01/2018 - 13:01

    Jam tomorrow... GWR have long relied on the 'New, more reliable trains' are coming to deflect criticism of their woeful performance running services out of paddington. The experience of many is that the new trains are no more reliable, much more unfordable and that the addition seats do nothing to improve overcrowding on peak time commuter services. The are also still subject to the frailty of the network infrastructure and incompetence of Network Rail in maintaining/upgrading that


  • EugeneStryker

    23/01/2018 - 12:12

    Despite electrification being the best way to improve capacity Benyon can't persuade industry lobbyists to get electrification to Bedwyn yet Tories are insistent on splurging £55.7bn on HS2, whilst the rest of Europe is investing in digital moving block signalling which costs considerably less but produces much more capacity on the current lines. That would mean that less of taxes are funnelled off to the companies like Carillion. This is all the while rail commuters pay the highest fares in Europe.


    • NewburyLad

      23/01/2018 - 23:11

      It all costs money, there is no magic money tree. I have asked before but I will ask you again, how much <b>more</b> tax money are YOU, EugeneStryker, prepared to pay each month in council tax, to have all the services you always seem to want, and how much more are YOU, EugeneStryker, prepared to pay each month in income tax to fund things like your NHS or, as you say, moving block signalling? Don't say you won't but someone else must.


      • EugeneStryker

        24/01/2018 - 16:04

        Do you want an actual figure? Theresa May's 'there isn't a magic money tree' was in response to a nurse that had not had a pay rise in 8 years. I would be happy to pay more tax as my membership to a socially democratic society in which those really contribute (you know like Teachers, Police Officers, Nurses, Paramedics, Social Workers) get a proper wage and my taxes get invested in assets that belong to the nation rather than corporates, like the NHS, utilities and transport infrastructure. I am not happy paying taxes to fund corporate greed and Tory chums and donors: £557bn on HS2, £1bn NHS contracts to Virgin Healthcare (who pay no tax in the UK!), £1bn to the DUP. As for the railways East Coast Mainline was turning a profit back to the treasury (£245m), travellers liked the service and the Tories still gave it to Stagecoach and Virgin, who we have now had to bailout.


      • rexhora

        24/01/2018 - 10:10

        I think EugeneStryker is advocating scrapping HS2. This would release £55.7bn to spend on more useful projects, like electrifying existing railways.