Further to my blog post of 11 December I have received further information from Rob Brighouse, Chief Executive of Chiltern Railways, concerning the timetable changes that have recently been introduced. I had contacted Mr Brighouse following contact from a constituent who had concerns that the changes would see a reduction in the service provided to customers using trains from Princes Risborough. I thought this may be of interest to constituents and have therefore included the information below.
- I do not agree that a drop in punctuality was caused by the introduction of Mainline trains. The Mainline ‘tag’ was merely given to the pre-existing service of long distance services that serve commuters as far south as Haddenham & Thame Parkway station. It was caused however by the large number of trains on the track at peak times that impact one upon another when there is a delay, coupled with teething problems with the new infrastructure put in place to permit higher speeds from September 2011. In the last three months we have seen significant improvements in punctuality and the current number of services remains similar to that previously.
- In arriving at the finished product, my planners do not differentiate between trains with the Mainline tag and those without. Their aim is to provide the best possible service from all stations, matched to demand and within the finite capacity of a line that is fully occupied at peak times. This always requires some compromises to be made.
- From feedback and public meetings held last year, it was evident that passengers were looking for a more regularly repeating pattern of service coupled with good punctuality. The new timetable derived its structure from that feedback, refined by the public consultation held last summer.
- It was also clear from the meetings that we were passing too many trains non-stop through our busiest commuter station at High Wycombe. We now restrict these to three an hour. With minor exceptions there is one an hour to London from each of Haddenham, Bicester North and Leamington Spa stations. I am sorry about and appreciate the disappointment this causes commuters from Princes Risborough, however priority for this goes to busier stations as one would expect. That said, after local consultation, we are currently running a non-stop train from Princes Risborough at 0653. This was originally timed at 37 minutes but further changes following the consultation have added 3 minutes to this transit time. This train is busy as it is the last stop before London. Passengers have a much greater choice of seat in fact on the 0644, which arrives into London before the 0653.
- Trains tend to be faster when fanning out of London and there are excellent journey times in the evening of 35/36 minutes, even with a stop at High Wycombe. The fastest time pre September 2011 was 40 minutes. A worthwhile improvement for Princes Risborough commuters.
- Following the changes to the draft timetable since my last letter, the average peak time journey from Princes Risborough in the morning now reduces from 47.3 minutes pre December 2012 to 46.5 minutes now.
- The number of Marylebone trains has not changed. We are starting to receive positive comments about the reinstated 0744 train from Princes Risborough, a commitment we made to Princes Risborough commuters in May 2012. Although it is early days, I think the fact that we now start three important trains empty from Princes Risborough (at 0644, 0744 and 0844) contributes to the fact that we have yet to receive reports of crowding on trains from this station.
- The timetable for each station is determined by the level of passenger use, refined by comprehensive and structured public consultation. I have not personally influenced the timetable from any station; to do so would be unethical.