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Beaconsfield commuters say new Chiltern line is 'misery'
TRAIN commuters have blasted Chiltern Railways after the introduction of its much-trumpeted new timetable was blighted by overcrowded carriages and signal failures.
Beaconsfield passengers, in particular, are demanding answers, saying they have been late for crucial meetings because their morning trains have been too full to board.
The rail firm has apologised, saying a lack of carriages and repeated signalling problems are to blame.
It said a survey has been carried out over the last week with a view to increasing the length of the busiest trains.
Commuters had been looking forward to a new timetable from September 4, after enduring 18 months of major disruption on the line. Chiltern Railways said the £250 million works would reduce journey times and improve the service.
But Andrew Pinto, 43, from Penn, said the service has got worse. He has missed crucial work meetings in the past fortnight after not being able to get on his morning train.
He added: “There are delays every day, huge problems with signal points failing every other day, insufficient trains...
“We have paid with huge engineering disruption, but have had no benefit....It is a real horror story and Chiltern are the new misery line.”
While the old timetable had four trains leaving Beaconsfield for Marylebone between 7am – 7.30am, the new schedule has just two. On paper, services between 7.30am – 8.05am have been improved.
In the evening, there used to be eight trains coming back to Beaconsfield between 5.30pm – 7pm. This has been cut to six on the new timetable, which has forced passengers to cram into overcrowded carriages.
This has been compounded by problems with new signals and points on the line, causing repeated delays.
A spokesman for Chiltern Railways told the Bucks Free Press: “We are currently looking at how we can add additional capacity to trains that are crowded. Counting all trains coming into London and out of London to see where we can move things about – but this is not a quick fix.
“In terms of signalling faults, we are working with our contractor and Network Rail to improve reliability of new infrastructure – basically at the moment it’s bedding in – we installed 68 signals and 38 sets of points over 55 miles of track.
“We know though that this is not good enough and we are doing what we can to ensure that our service gets back to what people expect of us.”
A petition has been launched and signed by about 80 passengers. The Bucks Free Press met several commuters at Beaconsfield this week, who had all experienced problems.
David Foster-Lyons, a strategy advisor, said: “It's been worse since they brought in the so-called improvements. They must have got rid of someone that understands punctuality.”
Matthew Alexander, a 35-year-old banker, said: “It's been a massive disaster. There's either not been enough carriages or they've not been on time.
"They seem to be two carriages short on the busiest trains. I've been late for a couple of meetings so I've started leaving earlier.”
Chris McCall, 42, a project manager, said: “In the morning you generally target a particular train, but if its late or over-crowded you're screwed. I've missed two crucial meetings and it just starts your day off on a stressful note.”
Janice Morley, who works for the Evening Standard, said: “I just feel it's a very expensive train line and they are getting it all their way...I never get a seat on the train.
"There was a catastophic situation last week when the signals went down at Ruislip. You get home in a bad mood and the impact on people's lives is enormous.”
Ian Stuart, a management consultant, said: “It's a real shame that over the last few years Chiltern have gone from being one of the best services to being pretty poor.
"The reduction in capacity from Beaconsfield is making a key commuter route very painful to use. The latest cut has reduced capacity so much that people are now struggling to get on the busier trains....It's a real mess.”
Joanne Smalley, a media manager, said the reduction of trains to Beaconsfield during the evening peak was “simply not acceptable”.
She added: “Come January no doubt, we will be forced to pay more for a worse service - fewer trains with fewer seats and no speed improvements.”