Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Not So Great Western; Back on Track: Andrew Haines Says FGW Will Spend [Pounds Sterling]200 Million on Improving Services

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Not So Great Western; Back on Track: Andrew Haines Says FGW Will Spend [Pounds Sterling]200 Million on Improving Services

Article excerpt

Byline: DICK MURRAY

THE boss of one of London's worst-performing commuter rail operatorstoday promised that the company would do better next year. Andrew Haines, chiefexecutive of First Great Western, admitted the firm had failed passengers inthe past year.

FGW, which carries more than 60,000 passengers a day in and out of Paddington,has been condemned for overcrowded, late and cancelled trains and has facedcalls for it to be stripped of its franchise. Passengers staged a fare strikeby refusing to buy tickets during the rush hour and the company was forced toapologise for cutting services.

In a victory for the Evening Standard's A Seat For Every Commuter campaign, MrHaines said a shake-up of the company and a new timetable would mean thousandsmore seats as well as better timekeeping and reliability.

He said: "We realise there is a long way to go and we will be working reallyhard. We are putting in [pounds sterling]200 million of our own money. There is nobody elsespending at the level we are. We have a strengthened and increased managementteam in place. We have also taken on 100 more train drivers and guards."Timetable changes introduced this month would mean improved services from theThames Valley area, with 30 per cent more seats on "crucial" peaktime commutertrains. Ten extra high speed trains had also been introduced.

More fast peak services from Slough, Maidenhead, Twyford, Tilehurst,Pangbourne,

Goring and Cholsey have also been introduced with additional early morning andevening trains between Banbury and Paddington.

Network Rail was responsible for infrastructure problems in the Thames Valleyarea that led to 70 per cent of delays. It has launched a [pounds sterling]500 millionprogramme to rebuild the tracks around Reading station, one of the worst "pinchpoints" in the country where trains stack up every day.

Brian Cooke of London TravelWatch said: "Recent performance on FGW has beenabsolutely awful and the new timetable provides the company and

Network Rail with a last chance to get it right. When we criticised theperformance of FGW this year we thought services on the London and ThamesValley routes couldn't get any worse. …

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