Great Western Railway is providing 17 extra trains a day to Newbury Racecourse to help with the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine.
The additional station stops on trains between Paddington and Bedwyn are intended to help those travelling to the new vaccination centre established at the Racecourse and are in additional to the present hourly timetabled services between Newbury and Reading.
GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:
“Rail continues to play a key role in providing travel for key workers during the pandemic, and now in helping to carry people to their vaccination.
“While we have taken some sensible measures to reduce our timetable during the present lockdown, this allows us to able to quickly respond to changes in demand, making sure that we can be relied upon at this time to help people travel safely and with confidence where they are able to.”
The extra services will begin to operate from Monday 8 February.
Geordie Taylor who runs Hungerford Self-Isolation Group and has been helping to arrange transport for those who cannot get to the vaccination centre, first contacted GWR in the hope that more trains could be stopped.
“When I contacted Mark, the MD of GWR, with the suggestion that more trains should stop at Newbury Racecourse I was prepared for a polite rejection. To my surprise and to GWR’s immense credit, they not only agreed with me they also fast-tracked the initiative with Network Rail to make it happen in double-quick time.
“This minor change to a complex timetable will be a huge benefit to all residents of Hungerford and many others along the line during the vaccination programme and I tip my hat in thanks to all concerned.”
GWR has also donated 40 bags of gritting salt to the vaccination centre to help prevent any unnecessary slips and trips after learning that they were struggling to get hold of some.
Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Environment has welcomed the move and said:
“West Berkshire Council is delighted that GWR has been able to increase the number of trains stopping at Newbury Racecourse station, enabling local residents to take the train to the Covid-19 Vaccination Centre at the Racecourse. More than 1000 local residents will attend the Centre to be vaccinated each day that it is in operation – so it’s good news that they will be able to choose to travel in a more environmentally friendly way – with space for social distancing.”
GWR is operating a reduced timetable during the latest national lockdown and customers should follow Government guidelines, only travelling for work if essential or for other legally permitted reasons. Find out more at gwr.com/safety.
The train operator has been providing rail services throughout the pandemic and has worked to ensure these are as safe as possible. This includes increased cleaning regimes and the use of a virucidal spray; extra staff at key stations to offer help and guidance; and processes in place to help customers maintain a safe distance where possible, such as restricting the number of reservations available.
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Photo credit: Great Western Railway