Sue and I have just come back from Easter in Jerusalem. I’ve attached some pictures of the Reading remodelling. Here is my report-
On our way up to Heathrow, we arrived in Reading on Platform 5 off the Berks and Hants. But on our return, we found all the platforms at Reading out of use except the new 12 to 15. The new very spacious footbridge is installed and is now in use, the old one demolished. A lot of the destination screens aren’t working yet but eventually I found one saying that our PZ bound train was to leave from Plat 12. But a view out of the windows of the new footbridge revealed that there was no way our train could access the Berks and Hants from that or any of the other platforms in use, hence the display saying our first stop was to be Taunton.
We departed on time and took the Swindon line as expected. After Swindon I wondered if we would take the Chippenham, Melksham and Westbury route back onto the Berks and Hants or go on from Chippenham through Bath to Bristol TM. But not only didn’t we take the single line through Melksham to Westbury, we didn’t even take the Chippenham route, instead turning right at Wooton Bassett Junction and taking the route to Bristol TM via Westerleigh Junction and Bristol Parkway.
We had been travelling at a leisurely pace other than on the stretch between Swindon and Bristol Parkway and so it was with some surprise that, when we were held on the Through Road between Plats 4 and 5 at Bristol TM, the guard informed us we were being held because we were running 5 minutes early! In that 5 minutes, we watched a Cross-Country Voyager depart west ahead of us and suspected we would have a stop-start journey after that. But it wasn’t to be and we enjoyed some good running before stopping at just about every station in West Devon and Cornwall before arriving on-time in Truro.
It was a lengthy but interesting journey spoiled by the lack-lustre service on the train itself. I formed the impression that FGW had expected to be out of this franchise by now and had allowed things to deteriorate so as not to waste money on a disappearing asset. For a start, we had two coach ‘H’s which caused unfamiliar passengers some confusion. In the two coach ‘H’s, two of the toilets were ‘Reserved for Staff’ whilst one of the two remaining was blocked and unusable. The door to the vestibule had a mind of its own and without any person or object near the floor sensor pads opened and closed repeatedly throughout the journey. The buffet closed east of Taunton for a crew change at Exeter. Prior to that, when it was open, the attendant lady was abrupt and rude. As usual on Saturdays, the first class free food offerings were limited to biscuits and crisps but this lady refused to serve hot chocolate, not because she didn’t have any, but because she said she had a limited supply and that if we wanted some we would have to pay for it! There were no free newspapers. At Plymouth, a group of noisy youngsters joined us, doubtless relying on the fact that no-one checks tickets west of Exeter. All in all, if we had paid the full 1st class fare for the journey, we would have been extremely displeased with what we received in return as, first class, it was not. The fact we were not overly angry is that this sort of service is what we have come to expect from FGW. May they be displaced by Virgin when the franchise finally changes hands.