‘Streamlining’ does not necessarily always mean good news especially when it relates to large infrastructure projects but on the back of such an announcement from the Department for Transport, the latest update from Network Rail is on balance good news for West Berkshire. Although the completion date has been pushed back to December 2018, the decision has been taken to concentrate funding within the electrification programme to schemes that will bring the most passenger benefits to the most people in the shortest possible time. This means that electrification of the line to Newbury (and on to Bristol and Cardiff) is being prioritised and you should start seeing the benefits in 2017.
The new Hitachi hybrid trains which can switch seamlessly between diesel and electric power will start operating on the Great Western network by summer next year. These have increased capacity, easier access, greater comfort and better digital connectivity on board. They are also much better for the rails they run on so require the track to be repaired less frequently; 56 per cent less wear than a high-speed train which should add up to a substantial ongoing saving on maintenance. These ‘bi-mode’ trains will also allow uninterrupted travel between London and Bedwyn where there is to be a new turn-back facility which will allow more of the new trains to begin/end their journey there rather than at Newbury.
Once again, the festive season can also be the season of closures and replacement bus services as every effort is made to carry out works to the line in off-peak times. Great Western has posted the full details here https://www.gwr.com/travel-updates/christmas-2016. The bad news is that London Paddington will be closed to all rail services from Saturday 24th December to Thursday 29th December, but trains will stop and start at Ealing Broadway which does have good underground and bus links into central London.