Well the day finally arrived when I had my appointment with Matthew Golton who is the Projects Director of FGW. We had arranged to meet on the train at Charlbury where he would be joining the train.
True to his word, as the train began to pull out of Charlbury, my telephone rang (embarrassing Nokia sound which I have since changed) and Mr Golton and I met up. I was escorted to 1st class and treated to a cup of tea and offers of just about anything I could eat.
We had a chat about the future of the line we use - in particular the option of rebuilding parts of the track so that there are less delays on the line.
The options seem to be:
1) Addition of track at the junction just north of Oxford and the upgrading of some goods lines to passenger standard (I never knew there was a difference - surely railway is railway...)
2) More track at another squeeze point near Moreton in Marsh.
3) The upgrading of the mainline track from Paddington to Didcot so that the slow tracks can cope with trains up to 90mph...
This move would include the upgrading of signalling to allow trains to run a bit closer and for there to be a single control centre in Didcot for a large portion of the country - more akin to air traffic control than an old style signal box.
A number of interesting facts emerged from our conversation:
1) The track out of Paddington to Reading has 25% of the country's suicides committed on it.. (Those that are done by jumping in front of trains....)
2) It costs about £3m for 1 mile of track.
3) A platform costs about £1m (but could be much more).
4) It will take until 2013 for all these upgrades to be completed.
5) The final iteration of signalling for trains - that is train to train transmission and proper aircraft type control will probably only be in place by 2035.
I intend to have retired by then.
Anyway. Matthew is a jolly nice chap and seems open to having sensible conversations. I was very amused by the reaction of all the FGW staff to Matthew - basically they couldn't do enough for us - literally falling over themselves to be nice. Every time a new member of staff saw Matthew, they would say "good morning sir". Hilarious. If only I had that sort of influence. .... The the world would be MINE. ALL MINE.
Train man - you'd have been in heaven with all the talk of extra sets of points and interlocking sleepers with a wide sweep round the corner...