Andrew Haines has resigned

8 December 2008

Andrew Haines has resigned as the Chief Operating Officer of FGW. OxRail Action enjoyed a productive working relationship with Andrew. During his term of office the company made significant improvements to performance and reliability. Andrew publicly recognised that the fare increase imposed in January 2008 was untenable in the light of FGW’s poor record on performance and reliability up to that time, and the increase was scrapped.  The sharper focus on customer service Andrew instilled into the company was also a welcome outcome of his tenure in charge. OxRail is sorry that Andrew has decided to stand down for personal reasons and wishes him every success in the future. We look forward to working with Andrew’s successor, Mark Hopwood, to build on the improvements Andrew started to put in place. 


OxRail meets FGW and NR managers on November 6th 2008

28 November 2008

OxRail Action members met managers of First Great Western and Network Rail on November 6th to discuss performance of commuter services, the fare increases in January, the upgrade of Reading station, the new platform at Oxford station, refurbishment of turbo trains, a new customer information system at Oxford station and more. Read the minutes of the meeting here.

Meeting with First Great Western and Network Rail August 6th 2008

15 August 2008

OxRail Action met Andrew Haines (FGW), Richard Rowland (FGW), Richard Cole (NR) and Dylan Bowen (NR) to discuss the proposed improvements between Didcot and Oxford, the impact on commuters of the redevelopment of Reading station starting in 2010, and of Crossrail, which has now received Royal Assent.

Read all about it here.

Meeting with Andrew Haines on February 27th 2008

17 March 2008

A meeting was held on February 27th between OxRail Action and FGW’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Haines, and other members of FGW. Read all about it here.

Minutes of the OxRail Action Group meeting held on February 19th 2008

16 March 2008

OxRail Action group met at the Waterman’s Arms on February 19th. The minutes of the meeting are here.

Latest update – March 7 2008

8 March 2008

 Ox Rail Action is now stronger than ever with new members joining all the time as dissatisfaction with First Great Western’s peak-time service between Oxford and London Paddington grows. The continued poor punctuality remains top of our concerns and while performance may have improved from the disastrous service provided during December 2007 and early-January 2008, there is still a very long way to go.  Early-morning services regularly arrive 15 minutes late and sometimes delays are up to 30 minutes, with little information given. Cancellations still regularly occur with no guidance offered from station staff as to what alternative routes can be taken. 

Ox Rail Action’s latest meeting was held just days before we were due to meet Andrew Haines, FGW’s chief operating officer, and we used the meeting to consult members on what they wanted us to ask Mr Haines.  Councillor Susanna Presselm who represents Jericho and Osney Ward, came along to the meeting to find out more about the campaign and offer her support.

 All members reported consistent delays on their morning services with many being forced to catch earlier trains in order to ensure they reach their desks on time. They wanted to ask what concrete steps were being taken to change the situation and ensure that trains ran according to the timetable. Other issues put on the agenda included: 

  • Performance of newly-refurbished High Speed Trains
  • Network Rail’s responsibility for poor performance
  • May and December 2008 timetable changes
  • Passenger representation
  • Oxford station’s renovations – when are they due to be completed?

 The meeting with Andrew Haines took place on February 27, at First Great Western’s offices, at Paddington station. Minutes of the meeting will be posted on this site once finalised. 

The Ox Rail Action meeting was attended by several new members who have volunteered to help support the running of the campaign. The extra help is much-needed if we are to maintain our momentum and there is still a real need for members to get involved.

 Responsibilities we would like members to take on include:

·         Monitor your trains – fill in the monitoring sheet – click here for more on this

·         Being media spokespeople – we need people to be available to talk to the media at short notice

·         Attending consultation meetings with First Great Western

·         Report writing – we will put together a report on the performance of services on a quarterly basis

·         Writing for the website – and taking pictures/short videos to use online – send all entries to

·         Writing to First Great Western whenever services are not up to scratch – write direct to Andrew Haines, at

·         Liaison with other passenger groups, MPs, the city council

Anyone who would like to get more involved should drop us a line at our email address   

OxRail Action suspend fare strike

25 January 2008
Ox Rail Action has decided to suspend its fare strike due to take place on Monday following the recent announcement by FGW to double compensation to passengers for poor performance.

After discussions with regular travellers, we have decided to hold off from immediate action since FGW has now met our key demand – to effectively freeze season ticket prices. 

We welcome First Great Western’s offer of double compensation and the admission that service has not been up to scratch. We are pleased FGW has acknowledged that they need to change.  

However, OxRail Action has informed First Great Western that it must improve the punctuality and reliability of its trains. If it does not, we will reschedule the strike.  We have communicated this to Andrew Haines, First Great Western’s Chief Operating Officer, who has promised regular meetings with OxRail Action to ensure Oxford passengers are kept informed and listened to. 

He also told us: “We have shown we can’t take our customers for granted and perpetually raise fares. There will be fare rises going forward but we would want to be sensitive about how they are applied, and we haven’t ruled out extensions to the discount if performance hasn’t improved.” 

It is vital that the voice of passengers continues to be heard. We will be holding a meeting soon to discuss our next steps. Please come. OxRail Action is made up of regular travellers who volunteer to help.

The more who work with us, the more effective we can be. Please tell your fellow travellers to register with our email list by sending an email so or go on the website at 


In Bath, Bristol, Frome, Yate and other stations in the West Country, a strike organised by pressure group More Trains Less Strain will still take place on Monday.  If any Oxford passengers still wish to register their protest, a fare strike ticket can be downloaded from the Bath group’s website at                                         

OxRail Action Committee

FGW offer fare freeze deal

22 January 2008
Following Oxrail Action’s recent meeting with Andrew Haines, First Great Western have publicly recognised they have delivered a poor service and announced a new compensation deal, which essentially means a freeze on season ticket prices.
First Great Western have agreed to double the compensation due to passengers under the terms of the Passenger’s Charter. Instead of five or 10 per cent, FGW will now refund 10 or 20 per cent of the season ticket value.
Monthly or annual season ticket holders will receive their compensation when they renew their current tickets.
Weekly season and day ticket holders will also be able to claim double compensation if their service is significantly delayed or cancelled.
OxRail Action is now reviewing whether to go ahead with or suspend its planned Fare Strike action at Oxford Station on January 28th. We will be advising you shortly.
However, the battle is far from over. We need to keep the pressure up to ensure that services run on time.
OxRail Action
From the FGW website: 22 January 2008

First Great Western (FGW) has announced it is giving back millions of pounds to customers – doubling the amount of compensation required by the Passenger’s Charter.

This move recognises customers have not received the service they deserve, and means that most regular passengers will effectively pay the previous year’s prices for their 2008 season tickets on renewal.

Season ticket holders will receive their compensation when they renew their current tickets.

Under the terms of the Passenger’s Charter, if reliability and punctuality targets are not met, season ticket holders receive a refund of five or 10 per cent. First Great Western will now refund 10 or 20 per cent of the season ticket value.

For example, a customer with a standard class annual season ticket between Bristol and Paddington would now be entitled to £867 in compensation.

Weekly season and day ticket holders will also be able to claim double compensation if their service is significantly delayed or cancelled.

FGW chief operating officer, Andrew Haines said: “We’ve not given customers the service they deserve over the last 12 months, and we’re sorry.

“We want to do the right thing by our customers. We are working with Network Rail to help us deliver a better service, but I recognise the promise of a better service tomorrow is little consolation for poor performance. I want this to send a clear message that we take our performance commitments seriously.

“This move will benefit tens of thousands of customers, and along with it goes our commitment to do everything possible to make sure service improves this year.

“We’ll also be freezing fares and car parking prices at their current prices until at least the end of this year.”

Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: “This deal is an important step towards rebuilding a link between service quality and price. It follows weeks of discussion and shows First Great Western is listening to passengers and passenger groups.”

Oxford passengers to join fare strike

20 January 2008

Oxford passengers are joining in Britain’s second fare strike Monday January 28 in protest against First Great Western’s high fares and poor service. 

Passengers travelling from Oxford to London Paddington in the rush hour will be joining those travelling from Bath, Frome, Yatton and Yate by taking part in the fare strike.  

Commuter pressure groups Ox Rail Action (Oxford) and More Train Less Strain (Bath) are calling on FGW’s chief operating officer Andrew Haines to improve the appalling service delivered each day by FGW and withdraw the unjustified fare increases introduced on January 2 2008.

We are urging all travellers to show their support for the strike by refusing to show a valid ticket and instead presenting the alternative FARE STRIKE ticket to First Great Western officials. 

 Fare strike tickets will be handed out outside Oxford station on the morning of the strike. MPs across the region have already pledged their support for the fare strike and are expected to turn up at train stations on January 28 to show their backing for the campaign. 

Tickets will also be available in advance of the strike via this website.

The service has gone from bad to worse in recent months. 

And while we have endured the deterioration of service, FGW (controlled by First Group) continues to generate significant profits.

Indeed, in the final quarter of 2007, FGW’s passenger revenues increased by a further 10 per cent. Moreover, First Group’s UK Rail operating profits were up 36.7 per cent to nearly £110m.   

We are calling on the Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly to take action and put pressure on First Great Western to improve its punctuality and reliability and deliver a better-value service.

If First Great Western cannot run the franchise to the satisfaction of the travelling public, it should be re-negotiated and awarded to someone who can. 


  1. The FARE STRIKE tickets will be issued from stations including Oxford station (between 6.30am and 8.30am) and are intended for use by anyone travelling  on First Great Western services; we are not encouraging passengers to travel without a valid ticket, but we are encouraging them not to show it
  2. For more information on the strike contact Ox Rail Action member Zahra Akkerhuys, in Oxford, on 07974 313566 or More Train Less Strain campaign organiser Tony Ambrose 07816 588287
  3. The first fare strike took place a year ago on Monday January 22 involving 2000 commuters travelling from Bristol and Bath

Waiting, court threats and a poet

20 August 2007

Sorry for the lack of updates to this website – it’s really because there has been not much news. We are still waiting to be shown the new December 2007 timetable, which we were promised mid-summer. We’ve been told it will be available to view on the FGW website in a couple of weeks so keep an eye out for it. Hopefully FGW will have taken on board our many concerns and issues over the draft timetable, but we shall have to wait and see. Meanwhile, in other news…..

Court threats

London passenger group TravelWatch have accused FGW of breaching their franchise agreement, and after sending a letter to Tom Harris, the Rail Minister, they were threatened with being taken to court for libel. After a series of meetings, this threat has now been withdrawn but it just shows how campaigns such as ours can turn a bit nasty.

A Poet

You may have seen the recent press coverage of FGW’s attempt at customer care with the appointment of a ‘platform poet’. Sally Crabtree, a Cornish poet, performed at selected stations with her copper tree, including a session in Oxford last week. When asked for a quote about this for the newspaper reports, an Ox Rail Action spokesperson (i.e. me) said “It made me laugh when I heard about this. If trains are delayed while this poet is performing, I don’t think passengers will be too impressed”. Actually, I laughed a lot more at The Times journalist Alan Hamilton’s own poetry about FGW:

Waiting, waiting, fulminating
‘Gainst announcements once more stating
That the 8.15 from Reading,
Which for London should be heading,
Won’t be here for half an hour;
There’s been a failure in the power.
Signals stuck at stubborn red;
We could have laid awhile in bed,
In ease and warmth to contemplate
That First Great Western’s running late.
Excuses shower down like rain
For why the train’s delayed again.
Driver shortage, leaves on line,
Breakdown, letdown, bad design;
Snow in engine, sun on rails,
Carriage shortage down in Wales.
The cheek of calling itself ‘First’
When figures show it’s now the worst
And underline the harsh reality
Of quite abysmal punctuality.
Yet always the commuter suffers,
As taut-stretched patience hits the buffers.
To customers they surely owe it
To do far more than hire a poet.

If you liked this, there is more at