The man in charge of one of the biggest train companies in the region today apologised for weeks of delays and cancellations.
Meridian can reveal that almost one in five services on Great Western Routes in the Thames Valley have been late according to official figures. Performance has been so poor the company is being forced to pay compensation to passengers under an agreed formula with the Government. Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First First Great Western (FGW) said passengers in parts of the region had seen a service "that should be better."
Some of the biggest delays have been on the line to Theale, Newbury, Hungerford and Bedwyn. The line from Reading to Basingstoke has also been affected at times.
Speaking exclusively to Meridian, Mr Hopwood said: "There have been a number of issues that have contributed to the latest performance. These have included two suicides, engineering works that ran late, a broken down freight train and a number of issues with our own trains."
– Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First First Great Western
The first thing is to say sorry but explain what we have done to improve things. That is what passengers want to hear. These include modifications to train engines to improve reliability and working with Network Rail to try to find ways of better recovering from infrastructure problems. Next week we will have completed a programme to provide 4,500 extra seats to ease overcrowding. "
Many issues have been out of the control of FGW but passengers have been left frustrated. Mr Hopwood insists that the latest punctuality figures for the last two days have been around 95 per cent and things are improving and went on "while things have not been good they are nowhere near as bad as things were four years ago" when at times more trains were late than on time. He said: "Elsewhere on the network we have not had this mix of problems and in places like Bristol the service is very good. We are committed to running a punctual railway and that is what we want to provide. " The latest monthly Thames Valley performance figures show 82.4 per cent of trains were on time. The target is at least 92 per cent.
Passengers can get a five per cent discount when they renew tickets if, on average, in the previous 12 months punctuality has fallen below 89 per cent. It currently stands at 88.2 per cent which has meant the discount is payable. On a £4,000 season ticket that would mean a discount of £200 when it is renewed.
Our Transport Correspondent Mike Pearse says "It is true many of the problems are out of the control of FGW and they are responding. Passengers don't want discounts but a train that gets them to work on time. The good news is FGW are taking urgent action to solve the problems. With most commuters back at work next week the company will have to do all it can to prove it is solving the problems. If not we will see mounting anger .FGW will be aware it must improve before most season ticket holders renew tickets at the end of the year. If not if will cost the company a massive amount of cash."