First Great Western promises to focus on reliability
Richard Rowland, general manager of the Thames area for First Great Western, told the Cotswold Line Promotion Group's AGM in Moreton (on Saturday 20th) that the 0754 from Charlbury (the halts service, starting at Worcester at 0650) had been the worst performing service within the company at one point. "The two months prior to Christmas were pretty awful," he said. However, it has greatly improved since - and from June this service will no longer stop at Honeybourne, which should make it more reliable again.
Overall, he said that First's priority for the Cotswold line for the next few years is "reliability and performance", partly to act as a buffer for delays that might be caused by engineering work between Paddington and Reading over the next four years.
He also told the meeting that First had adopted most of the suggestions made by CLPG about the major timetable changes due to start this December. Except for the halts services, the line will use only revamped '125' high-speed trains, with new engines and revamped interiors. "They will be pretty much new trains," he said. They will be fitted with selective door opening by the end of next year, enabling them to stop at shorter stations such as Hanborough.
In response to a question, Mr Rowland also said that the 10-year-old customer information system on the Cotswold line will be replaced over the first two years of the franchise, which started in April. This is currently unreliable, as it records the progress of trains at only a few stations. The new version is likely to use GPS satellite positioning to provide up-to-date information on the progress of trains, and will be available through station screens and online.
Conductors will also be given ticket machines which produce standard card tickets, allowing use of the automated barriers at Oxford and Paddington, "soon", he said.
(Thanks to Steven Mathieson for the report.)