Tue, 03 Mar 2020
NETWORK Rail has said its recent timetable changes have had little impact on Thatcham’s level crossing.
The new timetable added an extra train an hour between Newbury and Paddington.
Ahead of the December 2019 timetable change a modeling exercise was carried out at the crossing to determine the impact on the amount of the time barriers would be down.
The results showed that the barrier down time would go from an average of 36 minutes to between 38 and 43 minutes depending on the train movement in a particular hour.
This week, Network Rail spokesman Dean Shaw said: “However, since the timetable change we have found that owing to train positions in the scheduling there has been a negligible change in the crossing closure time, although it can fluctuate day to day.”
The Newbury Weekly News originally contacted Network Rail in September to ask what impact the new timetable would have on Thatcham’s level crossing.
But the only response the NWN received was that there would be a minimal impact, if any.
Follow-up questions about modeling and any mitigation measures to deal with the increased frequency went unanswered, despite repeated requests over four months.
Following the publication of last week’s article, Network Rail has apologised for not sending the information in a timely manner.
West Berkshire Council will also be conducting its own follow-up traffic assessment survey in March.
Saying that a survey needed to be carried out, Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) told a recent town council meeting: “The council could do a meaningful traffic evaluation now the new timetable has come in.
“I think that’s something meaningful that needs to happen.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Jeffery said: “They [West Berkshire Council] have got a date or schedule in March.
“They are going to do a proper technical survey of what it is like now with the new timetable in and up-and-running.
“It has been taken on board, they are going to do something.”
Mr Jeffery said there had been big headlines about increased services, but he didn’t want the only direct impact on Thatcham to be increased queues at the level crossing.
The council said it welcomed the electrification of the line and the environmental benefits it would bring, along with the timetable improvements that it said would greatly benefit residents.
The council commissioned a seven-day survey at Thatcham level crossing in December 2019, prior to the timetable change, covering 6am until 8pm each day.
The survey recorded the time the barriers were down and the length of the traffic queues generated.
A follow-up survey will take place in March to look at the ‘after’ situation.
Thatcham councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Colthrop and Crookham), who helped create an app to monitor the level crossing before he was elected in 2015, said: “Interestingly, the council has received no adverse comment from the travelling public on the impact of the timetable changes on the level crossing.
“It may be that more efficient use of the level crossing has resulted in shorter ‘down time’ compensating for the increased number of trains.
“However, that would be speculation at this stage.”
The survey information would feed into a larger traffic model for the town, which will assess potential transport improvements and the impact of potential developments in the area.