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Branch Line & Electrification

The proposal by Network Rail(NR) to electrify the branch line between Henley and Twyford, together with requests for improved services c/o First Great Western (FGW) from users of the line in Henley, Shiplake and Wargrave, highlights many benefits of electrification but also causes of concern regarding the potential impact of this, related projects and working practices of NR on the rural nature of the villages. This page and the Forum aim to keep the community up to date the key developments and issues.

Level Crossing Safety


Note the before and after change of sign, which still provides for train drivers to use the whistle/horn if required and then proceed. Essentially the same procedures and common sense apply as if crossing the road...look both ways, listen and proceed if safe. This applies to both ends of the platform at Shiplake. At the level crossing there is the addition of warning sounds and flashing lights and since the installation of barriers, followed by cameras, there has not been a major incident. That said there is the rare occasion of a foolhardy pedestrian/cyclist who feels they can take the risk. The horn will be blown. Please make sure everyone in the family takes appropriate care when using any railway crossing.

Article created / last edited: 20 May 2019

Removal of Horns at Level Crossing approved by RSSB

The noise level of the horns used on the branch line has been increasing in recent years and become a nuisance to many homes close to the track. Network Rail (NR) and GWR  acknowledged the issue and, after lengthy and detailed consultations with the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB),  the requirement to sound the horn is being removed at 2 'whistle stops' at Shiplake station on Monday 13th May. There will be a trial period of 12 months, the success of which may have benefits for many people nationally.

This represents a significant improvement from a health and welfare perspective, not least children being woken late at night/early morning by aggressively blown horns. If you rely on the horn as some form of 'alarm clock' you will need to make other arrangements. If you live at some distance from the station and like the sound of the horn occasionally, you will still be able to enjoy the 'hoots' but not as frequently.

Well done to the group of residents who made this possible. It took 4 years and may be viewed as a feat not far short of a 'Mission Impossible' episode. Pedestrians using the crossing must use their common sense and ensure they use the level crossing safely ...more on this in the coming days...and, yes, drivers will always use the horn if someone is on or near the track! For those that do not there is a CCTV monitor. 

Article created / last edited: 12 May 2019

What Really Happened at Shiplake's Crossing on Jan 21st?

In view of the nature of last week's Henley Standard article and lots of queries at the Corner Shop, please click here to find out more..

Article created / last edited: 29 January 2019

Dangerous & Life Threatening - 21/06/2018 @ 17:30

The level crossing barriers are there for a reason: to save lives and eliminate injuries - physical and mental - to pedestrians, car drivers and train drivers. Anyone walking, cycling or driving over the level crossing when the red lights are flashing and the barriers are lowering/in position are committing an offence and may be prosecuted/fined. Almost everybody understands this. However, someone chose to ignore it. Below is a copy of an email received this evening:

'I just witnessed from my son's bedroom window a man who had just come off the 17.30 train - tall, possibly in his 60s with a white check patterned shirt crossing when the barriers were down and after the train had sounded its horn. You can understand the frustration of the drivers in these instances. He headed towards Bolney Road. I should add it looked like he was talking on his phone through his headphones.'

We are working with Network Rail and GWR to eliminate such instances. Please do not ignore all the warning signals and barriers and DO NOT CROSS when activated.

Article created / last edited: 21 June 2018

Train Horn Nuisance & Use of Level Crossing

Overly loud train horn noise at the station was raised as an issue in the Shiplake Villages Plan of 2014 and the recent Neighbourhood Plan survey responses. As the noise levels have worsened, a group of residents has discussed the matter with GWR over a lengthy period and more recently with Network Rail(NR). Both have acknowledged the issue and are working to mitigate it. Like all regulated health & safety issues, however, there are procedures to follow and ultimately require the Sec. of State’s office to approve any changes.

The outcome, hopefully, will be the elimination of the horn at the level crossing on Station Road and one of the footpath crossings between Wargrave and Shiplake stations. The procedural request for this is being reviewed currently. This would be a significant improvement but is not certain AND will be influenced by pedestrian use of the level crossing which IS being monitored. For everyone's safety - train passengers and drivers, pedestrians and motorists DO NOT, whatever rush you may be in, feel it appropriate or clever to go under or around the barriers when the red lights are flashing and the barriers lowering or in the down position - see photos on the home page; it was pointed out by a GWR senior manager, on a recent visit, that a mature gentleman with a brown dog did go around the barriers, endangering himself and others. Such actions do not help eliminating this nuisance and should anybody see anyone misusing the crossing this way, please ask them not to do so. Advise the council via feedback@shipakevillages.com with the date and the time of the incident.

Many thanks for your help and cooperation in ensuring we get the reductions in noise levels that many residents seek.

Article created / last edited: 2 October 2017

Branch Line: Near Term Future Outlined

The Henley Branch User Group (HBUG) met with GWR's Managing Director on 29th November for a  'What happens Now?' briefing, following the decision not to electrify the branch line in the near future. Many thanks to Ray Wild, our Shiplake HBUG member, for his attached report of the key points affecting the services: the mainline electrification project, carriage capacity, Crossrail, frequency of services and other aspects. Click here to keep yourself uptodate. 

Article created / last edited: 2 December 2016

DofT Branch Line Electrification Update

As notified to the council by Network Rail on 17/11/2016 click here to see Statement from DofT .

Specifically note that: The two Thames Valley branches due to be upgraded with overhead line electrification, the Windsor and Henley branches, will see this work deferred for the duration of CP5.* 

*CP stands for Control Period, each of which lasts for 5 years with CP5 finishing in March 2019 and CP6 starting in April 2019.  Therefore, no electrification before April 2019 and probably taking place before March 2014.

Article created / last edited: 18 November 2016

Branch Line Electrification – Update Oct 2016

Network Rail has completed the engineering assessment of the work required for the electrification of the Henley branch line and their proposals have been submitted to the Dept for Transport. It is not known when a decision will be made but if and when it is, then further design work and planning is required and it will be about 2 years before all work is completed.

It is not now proposed to lift the Mill Road bridge but rather to lower the track there, despite some concerns about flooding. A piece of NR land there is to be sold as part of the ex LA Fitness development. It is not intended that the Shiplake rail crossing will be changed or that there will be any further relaying of track, e.g to introduce welded lines.

The overhead line system has been selected  - UK Master Series, Single Track Cantilevers

There will be further consultation before a work schedule is finalized, e.g whether the entire track will be closed for a period, or the work undertaken section by section over a longer period; the use of mid week night time working; the storage and location of equipment etc. A replacement bus service will be required, possibly to Reading station - this will be the responsibility of GWR.

Article created / last edited: 14 October 2016

Brand New Electric Trains for Thames Valley

GWR have now signed a multi-million-pound deal for four-carriage electric trains to replace the diesel Turbo trains that operate in the Thames Valley.

This will mean all our Thames Valley electric commuter fleet is brand new and apparently we are not going to have 'almost new' electric trains cascaded from another operator as originally planned..........click here to see personal message with more details from Mark Hopwood, GWR MD, to Roger Hudson, Parish Clerk. It is also a stong indicator that the branch line electrification will go ahead.


Article created / last edited: 10 June 2016

Henley Branch Line Electrification Update


Shiplake Parish Council (SPC) and Village Plan Steering Group (SVP) members met with Network Rail (NR) representatives on 12th April, to discuss the proposed electrification of the branch line, recently  confirmed in the Hendy Review. The council and many in the community have significant concerns regarding the potential impact of the project on Lower Shiplake. Based on the briefing notes and constructive discussions, you can click here and see the update on the key points. 

The proposed masts for the project is a positive, as opposed to installation of heavier gauge stanchions and related construction works. Discussions with NR will continue in the future, as the project moves forward, and the council will continue to update the community on developments.   

Article created / last edited: 17 May 2016

NR Mechanical Flailing overnight on branch line

Network Rail Customer Communications Notice:

What are the works involved?

We will shortly be undertaking vegetation clearance along the side of the railway tracks between Twyford and Henley Stations. These works are part of our vegetation management programme to ensure that a suitable position of safety and sighting is available for staff looking out for trains and moving along the trackside. The workwill involve the use of Road Rail Vehicles with a mechanical flailing attachment.

How we will manage the impacts on our neighbours?

We recognise that construction work on the railway can be disruptive to those living or working nearby. The nature of our work often means some disturbance is unavoidable, but please be assured that every effort is made to minimise any unnecessary noise and we have reminded all staff to be considerate to our neighbours.

When will the work take place?

Work will be undertaken each night from Tuesday 2nd February 01:00 to Friday 5th February 05:30.

Where will you be accessing the track?

We will be using Twyford train station as our access point.

Article created / last edited: 18 January 2016

Henley- Paddington Timetable Changes 13/12/2015

Take note: some important and beneficial changes to the mid and late evening services in the new GWR timetable.
Details are as follows
Just to let you know that as of 13/12/2015 a new timetable will be in place, with a few changes of relevance to the branch.
This mainly centres on weekday evenings where trains have been retimed to offer better, more frequent connections back from London later in the evening. This means that between 21:00-ish and 23:18 there are five connecting services that in all but one case take 65 minutes or less from Paddington.
In addition, the 22:18 "fast" branch connection with a change at Maidenhead will be replaced by a direct service to Twyford calling only at Maidenhead and Slough at 22:21.
The new mainline timetable is here: https://www.gwr.com/~/media/gwr/pdfs/timetables/december-timetables/london-to-greenford-heathrow-airport-and-reading-e1.pdf?la=en
And branch timetable here: 

Article created / last edited: 15 December 2015

Henley Branch Line to be electrified..but when??

HBUG Update: The Hendy Report on Network Rail programmes (including Great Western Electrification) was published this week and can be read at http://www.networkrail.co.uk/Hendy-review/
The good news items are: 

Confirmation that the GWR electrification programme will be completed; Henley Branch Line will be included in the programmeElectrification of the lines to Cardiff, Bristol, Newbury and Oxford will be completed by the end of 2018;  GWR will introduce a fully electric based timetable in December 2018
The bad news items are:
There are no precise dates quoted; The years quoted are all later than the plans that we have previously been given; Electrification of the Cardiff-Swansea line will not now take place until after 2019; GWR have said that they will be producing a revised interim plan based on this report after consultation with DfT.

We do not expect to see that plan until the new year but will communicate it  as soon as it is released.

Note: Shiplake Parish Council will be arranging a meeting with Network Rail at an appropriate date to discuss implications for Lower Shiplake.

Article created / last edited: 21 December 2015

Western Region Electrification Update Oct. 2015

Following the HBUG AGM earlier this week (12/10/15) and the updates from Network Rail and GWR (formerly FGW), click on the attached summary of proposed services  and dates from Ray Wild, Shiplake's representative on HBUG*

*HBUG is the Henley Branch Line User Group


Article created / last edited: 14 October 2015

Network Rail Western Route Study Released

Members of HBUG have distilled the above 289 page study down to 6 pages of information salient to branch line users ... click here ...it is certainly worth a read if you are a commuter. 

Article created / last edited: 7 October 2015

HBUG AGM...Network Rail & GWR Updates

Henley Branch Line Users’ Group (HBUG) – AGM Monday 12 October at 8pm in Henley Town Hall

GWR and Network Rail representatives will outline future plans and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.

Please come to the meeting if you are interested in the future of our rail service.
Michael Porter
Hon. Sec.

Article created / last edited: 6 October 2015

Henley Branch line update

1. Schedule changes

Some timetable changes, which did not require consultation, have already been made, for example to provide for a later connection in the evenings from Paddington, (as requested in the Shiplake Villages Plan). Initially it was expected that First Great Western would put further proposed changes out for consultation in time to make any changes for May 2015, but that was delayed and subject to D f T approval, which has not yet been received, the proposals should be to be put to consultation in time to make any changes for December 2015. If these proposals are similar to earlier suggestions from FGW they would include changes to evening peak time trains from Paddington to the branch. Currently there are two trains just after 1700 and 1800 hrs. One is a through train which is slow (54 mins to Shiplake) and the other is a change at Twyford, its first stop - a fast train (32 mins to Shiplake) The original proposal involved making these services at approx 30 min intervals, with both being fast to Twyford  but no through service. It is not known whether the earlier controversial proposal for a 30 mins service between Twyford and Henley, with some trains not stopping at Wargrave will survive  

2. Electrification

Engineering feasibility work for the branch line by Network Rail was expected to be completed by December 2015. It was delayed as resources were required on the main line. It is not clear whether it has begun yet. This will cover such issues as the need to lower the track at 6 bridges, the line side equipment required, location of stanchions, piling work etc. Also of significance will be the need to provide overhead structures on the river bridge, which is a listed building and for which listed building consent will be required. The result of this study were to be presented as part of a January 2016 review by DfT. If the electrification of the branch is considered to be value for money it might then be approved, despite the fact that expenditure on the main line is greatly over budget. The merits of electrification of each of the Thames Valley branch lines will be considered on an individual basis. 

3. First Great Western plans to 2017, as announced April 2015

A new Franchise was awarded to FGW in April. The company then made known its plans. Of direct relevance to us are :

Through trains will end May 2017

Electric trains will be available to the branch in time for the May 2017 timetable changes, but electrification will not have been completed  by then., and services are expected to start in Dec 2017

Further details

4. Network Rail and GWR electrification

In June the DfT announced delays in railway upgrading, in particular various electrification projects. This was in response to concerns about substantial cost over-runs and delays on projects and general concern about the performance of Network Rail.

In that announcement however it was confirmed that the electrification of the GWR line from Paddingto to Swansea would continue as a priority, together with the electrification of ‘branch lines’. However the only  branches specifically mentioned were the ‘Valley Lines’ in Wales!

5. Crossrail

Crossrail will run from Reading to stations east of London. It is expected to be in full operation in 2018. It will have a significant impact on travel from the Henley branch to and from London via Twyford.

The electric Crossrail 9 car trains are 90 mph, not high speed. They will have no toilets! Trains from Twyford to London will stop at many of the 13 stations before Paddington and the journey time will be approx 50 mins, so for those travelling to/from Paddington this will not be a faster service, but for those travelling further their journey time we will be shorter. It is not known what effect the existence of this service will have on the FGW schedule. Currently we benefit from some fast services stopping at Twyford after stopping only at Maidenhead and/or Slough. Seating capacity on Crossrail trains will be less than on existing main line services.

Ray Wild

July 2015

Article created / last edited: 2 July 2015

Henley Branch Line Users Group

The Henley Branch Line Users Group (HBUG) seeks to coordinate user and business input to future rail strategy affecting us. It represents local views as needed in discussions with Network Rail and First Great Western and aims to hold FGW to account for service failures.
HBUG would welcome more members from Shiplake. 

The group regularly updates members on issues, service problems and disruptions. It takes up local issues with senior NR and FGW staff. The work of HBUG is of particular relevance to regular users of the service and those affected by the line in other ways.
To join HBUG contact:  Henleybranchusersgroup@gmail.com

Article created / last edited: 2 July 2015

Level Crossing Cameras Operational

level crossing cameraWhilst the cameras have been described as something from the 1950's film 'War of the Worlds', the technology involved appears to be somewhat closer to Star Wars! They are now operational; any vehicle crossing the white lines on the road immediately in front of both approaches to the level crossing, when the RED warning lights are flashing, will be caught on camera with images automatically sent to the Transport Police and penalty notices issued. Note the amber warning lights flash for a very short time before turning red and the barriers are not lowered for a short time after the red lights begin to flash. The red lights also continue to flash until after the barriers are raised. The digital cameras themselves will not flash and you will be unaware of being caught on camera.

Attempting to cross the railway line when the lights are flashing is obviously foolhardy and risks people's lives...it is now going to be expensive. Don't do it! I recommend anyone with contractors working on site make them aware of the risks and penalties involved.

Information provided by the onsite installation engineers. Specific guidelines have been requested from Network Rail. 

Article created / last edited: 12 July 2015