West Wiltshire Rail Users Group News and Newsletter
GWR Temporary Timetable from 8th January 2022
GWR have introduced a temporary timetable as a result of increased staff sickness and self-isolation due to the rise in Covid cases. There have also been a number of ad hoc, short notice cancellations recently, due to the much reduced staffing levels. As a result, from Saturday 8th January, they are introducing a temporary timetable, which will run through to Saturday 15th January. The situation will be reviewed during the first week and if necessary the temporary timetable will remain in place. More highly used school, college and key worker services are being prioritised with changes focused where these will help to release train crews. Check their website for latest information and train times
Withdrawal of South Western Railway's direct Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo trains - update Dec 2021
The very last South Western Railway direct train from London Waterloo to Bristol Temple Meads departed bang on time at 19:20 on Friday 10th December comprising of 8 carriages - the last two forming the portion going forward to West Wiltshire towns, Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads. These were quite full and we believe somewhere between 30 and 40 remained on at Salisbury for destinations in West Wiltshire, Bath and Bristol. Unfortunately if they attempt the same journey after this date they will face a lengthy wait at Salisbury for a connecting GWR service.
Withdrawal of South Western Railway's direct Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo trains
South Western Railway currently operates the direct Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo service which pre-pandemic provided four return journeys on weekdays with the first departure from Bristol at the convenient time of 08:49. With the reduction in services during the pandemic to match demand, from May 2021 the first two services were removed just leaving the 15:50 and 19:35 from Bristol with the latter only running as far as Basingstoke. SWR and the department of transport have now announced their intention to withdraw these services completely from Dec '21.
SWR have issued a consultation document on their proposals for the December 2022 timetable, and as a users group we have responded accordingly. However, on P37 of this document there is the statement that SWR will withdraw its current three daily return services from Bristol Temple Meads to London Waterloo via Salisbury following "a separate review with the Department for Transport". Some of the reasons for withdrawal are given as lack of demand, and duplication of services between the two operators (GWR and SWR) not providing good value for taxpayers. This does not even give the services the chance to recover as people return to using the trains again encouraged by the TV and press advertising campaign funded by the Rail Delivery Group.
Although the intention is to retain the few SWR direct Waterloo trains running from Yeovil to Waterloo via Frome, Westbury and Warminster, Bradford-on-Avon and the county town of Trowbridge will lose all of theirs meaning it will not be possible to travel to the capital without a change of train at either Bath or Westbury, or to Waterloo with a change (and long wait) at Salisbury. As people return to using the trains, the prediction by SWR is that leisure travel is likely to exceed pre-pandemic levels even though business travel may not return to quite what it was pre-pandemic. This makes retention of these services even more important as their timings and availability of cheaper tickets makes them ideal for leisure journeys where the slightly slower travel time compared with GWR high speed services is not a deterrent.
The group has written to both our local MPs. Dr. Andrew Murrison responded, echoing our concerns and forwarded our letter to the DfT, eliciting a reply from Grant Shapps which contained some very unconvincing reasons for withdrawing the service. Michelle Donelan has also taken up the cause with a strongly worded reply to the DfT, reported in Wiltshire Times on 17th October. BBC local news also reported on the proposals in breakfast news on Wednesday 20th October.
Other affected transport user groups have taken up the cause: the Bath Two Tunnels group here; the great western 'coffeeshop' passengers' forum here; and committee member Graham Ellis has started a petition on the government website which we urge all who are concerned about losing this popular service to sign, by clicking on the link here.
Avoncliff Walking Talk - 24th July 2021
On Saturday 24th July members, partners and friends were treated to a very informative walking talk in Avoncliff by WWRUG member Dr. Trevor Turpin, chairman of Bath Industrial Heritage Trust and Churchill Fellow. We learnt about the history of the halt, the canal and aqueduct, and of Ancliff square, former workhouse, red cross hospital and hotel which is now twelve private residences. A more detailed description of the day will appear in our next newsletter.
Bristol Rail Regeneration
Over this summer Network Rail is remodelling Bristol East junction near Bristol Temple Meads to allow more services to run through Bristol and help to reduce the conflict which currently occurs between long distance and local stopping services.
This work forms part of the Bristol Rail Regeneration programme that will see improvements to the iconic Bristol Temple Meads station over the next three years, and support the city’s Temple Quarter development.
More details are available from Great Western Railway's website here.
Tidy up for Westbury Station Garden.
Friends of Westbury station, including members of WWRUG and the Heart of Wessex CRP watch Cllr. Horace Prickett cutting the tape to unveil a transformed embankment next to the entrance to Westbury station. [Picture by Trevor Porter, Wiltshire Times].
Read the full article published on 30th November 2016 in Wiltshire Times here.
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