From Monday 14 September, Great Western Railway has started to introduce a third hourly train service on the North Downs line, realising ambitions held for more than a decade.
Eight extra weekday trains will run between Reading and Redhill – four in each direction –increasing the number of services from two-an-hour to three-an-hour at key parts of the day.
At Reading to watch the departure of the first extra service, GWR business assurance director Joe Graham said: “Introducing three trains an hour on the North Downs line has been a long-held ambition of ours and we’ve worked closely with Network Rail and other partners to deliver these improvements, which couldn’t be better timed as we welcome more people back to the railway.
“A lot of hard work has been done to make sure people can be confident to travel safely, and that includes running more trains and carriages to make extra room, as well as enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures.”
As well as the additional weekday trains, which will increase seat capacity by 11 per cent, from Saturday 19 September the Saturday service will also become hourly throughout the course of the day, with the exception of the first and last hours. This will increase seat capacity by more than a third on Saturdays on the route.
The improvement is a major step towards realising GWR’s aspirations to provide three trains an hour Monday to Friday throughout the day and builds on a recent promise by the train company of new, tri-mode trains and more carriages for the line early next year.
Discussions continue with Network Rail and other stakeholders about when GWR can introduce more trains on the route to realise the full timetable aspiration and extend the additional services being introduced this Monday to Gatwick Airport.
Also present at Reading station, Deputy Leader of Reading Council Councillor Tony Page said: “Reading Council has long campaigned for these extra services. The line is important for commuting, for education and for leisure and has shown significant growth over many years. This is therefore a positive step forward.
“We will continue to press for more trains at peak times and we want to see the new tri-mode trains, with their dual electric diesel traction, on the route as soon as possible. Rail is an important driver for our local and regional economy and we will continue to work with GWR and NR to keep up the momentum for further improvements.”
At the end of August, GWR announced that it had received the first train in the UK able to run on overhead and third rail electric lines, as well as under its own diesel power.
Offering more carriages than the trains they are replacing, the Class 769 fleet was specially commissioned by GWR to be able to run under overhead wires in London and the Thames Valley, and to take advantage of third rail provision where it exists on the North Downs line.
The innovative fleet of tri-mode trains will operate in four-carriage sets which have been refurbished inside and out, with free Wi-Fi and power at each seat, air cooling, bigger luggage racks, and new seat covers. Equipped with new diesel engines and combined with their electric capability, each Class 769 will offer a quieter and cleaner experience for customers than the trains they are replacing.
Photo Above – Ambition realised: Left to right, GWR’s Head of Train Planning, Matt Cambourne, Network Rail Western’s Customer Relationships Executive, Richard Turner, Deputy Leader of Reading Council, Tony Page, GWR Business Assurance Director, Joe Graham, and GWR Reading Station Manager, David Pinder.