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Thames Trains operate nearly all the services out of London into the rich Thames Valley high-tech belt to the west of the City. Until 2000 First Great Western served Slough at peak times, but now there's only competition for commuter journeys to Reading and beyond. An 18 minute journey costs almost six pounds. The trains are tatty and uncomfortable. Some carriages have tiny windows for ventilation, the remainder have permanently broken air conditioning instead. The station staff are unbelievably unhelpful and have no interest in providing a service to passengers. Thames Trains stopped updating the electronic displays in the trains accurately a year or so ago, so now they display information from timetables past. Most of the trains are late on many days, but it doesn't really matter because the services are frequent. At Slough, there is often only one ticket barrier to exit from in the morning so people have to queue for several minutes just to get out! Given the demand on this route, TT could hardly lose. Almost anyone could do better.
Having been nice about Virgin Trains - time to be cruel about Thames Trains. in fact I have nothing good to say about them. Their trains aren't very old, but they are falling to bits, look really scruffy and always smell of urine. They are often being cancelled due to lack of staff, which can mean another hour wait for the next one. And they are very releuctant to ever compensate you. I lost my phone once on a Thames Trains train. I phoned the station and they said that they had it in the ticket office. I went to collect it, but they had given it to someone else. No signature, no address, no checks - I didn't believe it. They did pay for the replacement - however that is not the point! They seem to keep the heat on all year, and then get stroppy if you open the windows - but if the air conditioning worked.... but it doesn't.
After a positive op on Midland Mainline, I thought i'd best even it out and slag someone off. Thames Trains gets my vote for most annoying train operator that i've used. It's not that they're totally dire - as I rarely have to make long journeys with the service, there's not much chance of an extra hour or three being added to my journey, unlike some other companies *cough,GNER*, but they always seem to be just not as good as you'd expect. For a start! Most trains are delayed, for a variety of reasons you never get to hear about - the automatic station voice just announces they're really sorry. Seeing as there are multiple and frequent services in both the London and Reading directions throughout the week, it usually means very little, and you will eventually get a train to your destination - it's just annoying that that Express service you're waiting for is so late that you catch an all-stopper and double your journey time! Next - the trains themselves. Rarely cleaned - I know they get very very heavy use at peak times, but i've been on 7am trains and they look awful. I will admit they're nippy - nothing beats watching as you overtake the lumbering 125's which need miles to slow down, and they do have nice wide doorways and bike stands to make it all a bit nicer - but why can't we have the staff to match? They're usually totally silent except when selling tickets on the train, the station staff are rarely helpful and usually attempt to give you the wrong ticket. The routes are good - i'll admit also that they go to a lot of small stations between the larger towns, and offer a wide service - but there are not always enough of these trains. Late at night being stranded in Nowheresville Berkshire is no fun, especially when four or five express trains whizz past. I usually manage to avoid peak travel - the railcard discounts dont always work *it's some
weird random system, at the whim of the ticket office I reckon!*, the prices are very steep - only salvaged by a cost effective Tube ticket in conjunction, and finally the staff are all off duty during peak times. Strange that - standing around having a natter rather than answering questions from busy commuters *where's my train?, does it stop in London?! 'I've heard that twice!*. SO then, erm, in summary - it's not that they're completely awful - just generally substandard. Please can my ticket money be spent wisely please? Oh go, on - i'd appreciate it!
Thames Trains operate a fleet of Diesel Multiple Units between London Paddington, Reading, Malvern, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. The main work is providing a stopping service between London and Oxford. The trains are reasonably comfortable but you can get a little squashed on a crowded one. Unlike First Great Western, a trolley service is provided which just about squeezes up the aisle dispensing beers, hot drinks and other edibles. The interior of each carriage is neutral with illustrations of the places serves on the front and rear panels of each carriage. There is also an electronic indicator which shows the ultimate destination and all stops in between. This is a nice touch and allows you to count the number of stops before you need to get off. Thames Trains have been quite clever in expanding upon the routes once served by their British rail predecessor. It is now possible to catch through trains between Paddington and Stratford-upon-Avon serving Reading, Oxford and Warwick. This saves the need to wait for a connection at Leamington Spa. There is a late evening return service, which leaves after the play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The trains are reasonably clean and free from litter. They are pretty modern with a form of ‘air conditioning’ and push button doors. On a good run, they can get up to about 90-100 mph though at this speed they do vibrate a bit ! An advantage of using a Thames Train service to London is that there are fewer ticket restrictions. You cannot travel from Paddington on a 125 between approximately 1630 and 1930 on a cheap day return during the week. You can on a Thames Turbo – hence they tend to be pretty crowded. This can be made even worse if a fast 125 to Reading has been cancelled or is running late. My only criticism of the service is the design of the trains themselves. Unfortunately one was involved in the Ladbroke Grove crash and very little was left o
f it. Sometimes the trains are late or cancelled, but this is to be expected in an industry with rising passenger numbers and limited room for expansion. Overall, they are not a bad company and are a big improvement on the British Rail service.