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Author Topic: Services to Oxford, Didcot and Reading from Swindon and further west  (Read 2398 times)
grahame
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« on: March 31, 2020, 12:31:23 pm »

Start of my new sticky thread ... remaining subjects listed at the bottom .



Name

To Oxford, Didcot and Reading from West
Journeys from Swindon and West thereof to Oxford, Reading and other stations outside London

Description

Swindon has in many ways been "the first place in The West", with a perception that rail traffic arriving there via Stroud, via Bristol Parkway, via Bath Spa and of late via Melksham and carrying on eastward is headed for London.  Those of us who live in Wiltshire and have been involved with the politics of the area have seen a break between the South West region and the South East and Home Counties region, and what's felt like an assumption that anyone heading east from Swindon on an Intercity HST train or Intercity Express Train (IET) must be headed for the InterCity destination of London. But thats far from the case - many people from Swindon and west thereof are headed for Reading, or Oxford, or Didcot - a much shorter journey.

Let's see a map of that:



I'll add journeys via Swindon and Didcot to Gatwick and Heathrow airports too, to Bracknell and Wokingham, to Slough, to Basingstoke, and to a second tier of destinations such as Maidenhead, Culham, and Radley (for Abingdon).

Service

From December 2019, two trains per hour from Bristol, Bath, Chippenham and Swindon call at Didcot and Reading on their way to London. In peak hours, these are not evenly spaced at 30 minute intervals.

From December 2019, two trains per hour run from South Wales (one from Cardiff and one from Swansea) calling at Bristol Parkway, Swindon and Reading. Passengers for Didcot usually need to change at Swindon

From December 2019, one trains per hour runs from Cheltenham Spa and Gloucester, Stonehouse, Stroud, Kemble and Swindon to Didcot and Reading.

In December 2019, GWR launched "superfast" express trains nonstop from Bristol Parkway and Chippenham into London Paddington during peak hours.  Those were due to be extended to run all day from mid May 2020.  At the time of writing (31.3.2020), these superfast services have been withdrawn but it should be expected that the government will wish to re-introduce them as 'flagship' services in due course.  They do nothing for passengers from Swindon and west thereof headed for Didcot, Reading or Oxford except perhaps relieve crowding on the trains that serve intermediate stations.

Passengers from Westbury, Trowbridge and Melksham to Didcot need to change at Swindon onto trains listed above. From Westbury and Trowbridge to Reading, alternative services are available via Pewsey.

Passengers for Oxford from Swindon and west thereof will usually be required to change at Didcot onto a local train to Oxford; in some instances a faster journey will be available doubling back at Reading, but that will often be at a higher fare.

Current issues

There are no direct trains from Westbury, Trowbridge or Melksham that head east beyond Swindon. A change is always needed.

There are no direct trains headed east from Swindon that carry on to or via Oxford. A change is always needed. Connections at Didcot tend to be poor (we have referred to it as the "Didcot Dance" in the past, in which passengers arriving to change trains see an onward train leaving, meaning they have half an hour (occasionally a bit longer) to wait. 

Main passenger flows

Employment / skilled workforce flow from Swindon and west thereof to Reading (large employment area), Didcot (for bus link to Harwell) and Oxford. Leisure / tourism flows into Oxford from the west too, noting popularity of Oxford for overseas tourists (Bicester Village too - 2 or 3 stops from Oxford on Chiltern) at one "end", and Bath, Salisbury and Wilton for Stonehenge at the other.  Much of the leisure potential is untapped

Aspirations

A direct train service from Swindon to Oxford. Whether such a service makes a passenger call at Didcot, or uses the curve that avoids the station (and carries a "parliamentary" service only) is an option open for discussion.  Substantial numbers of people make the connection as it stands, and frequent but slow Swindon to Oxford buses point to further likely traffic. Swindon has joined Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge in the "England's Economic Heartland" sNTB and the relevance and proportional volume of this flow will increase because of this linkage. See map at


Both GWR / TransWIlts and Go-op are looking at this aspiration, which logically links services from Westbury (and beyond) to Swindon with a Swindon to Oxford service and services beyond Oxford - East / West Rail to Bedford and later Cambridge, and to or via Banbury to Coventry and Nuneaton, or to Birmingham Moor Street, have been mooted. Ongoing Go-op thread at http://www.passenger.chat/11010

There is an aspiration for a new station at Wantage Road / Grove, with the community there having grown from Wantage itself out to the railway.

Fares

"Split tickets"

Didcot is the last station in the old Network South East area and day return tickets to London are not available from further out. From Swindon and beyond, return tickets to London are period returns and are priced at higher "intercity" rates. This means that passengers taking day trips from West of Didcot to east can sometimes save themselves money by breaking their journey at Didcot. Rules and options are complex; check on the "Fares Fair" area - but basically you are allowed to split your journey across two tickets provided that the train you are on calls at the station where you go from one ticket to the next, and each ticket would be valid as a separate journey for that leg.

Reading double-backs

Journey planners to Oxford will sometimes route you via Reading - travelling up and down the line between Didcot and the Reading area.  At certain times of day it is quicker, but note that the fare many be significantly higher

GWR Discoverer tickets

Great West Way Discoverer tickets (East and Global) are valid on Swindon - Didcot - Reading - (London) services but not on trains to Oxford. They are however valid on the bus from Didcot to Oxford (also from Reading and from Swindon). The West pass is also accepted on the Swindon - Oxford bus, but not on the train to the east of Swindon.

Peak difference

If you're headed west from Reading or Didcot, note that most off peak restrictions from Reading apply in both morning and evening peaks, but from Didcot most restrictions are morning peak only.

To be written

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