Rail growth strategy for the Great Western launched for consultaion

Rail demand on the Great Western is set to grow by 31% in 2019 and further investments in longer trains, more services and infrastructure will be vital to meet the boom, a draft proposal by the rail industry unveils today.

The far-reaching plan, published by Network Rail, outlines an emerging strategy to enhance the benefits of major committed schemes, including electrification, Intercity Express Programme, Reading railway re-modelling and Crossrail.

By the end of the decade, the transformation of the Great Western will be advanced, bringing more seats, better connectivity and shorter journey times to key growth areas.

Nearly 100m passengers are predicted to be travelling within the Great Western by 2019. Bristol, in particular, will experience the biggest growth of 41% in peak rail demand among key urban centres, burgeoning at a rate of 3.2%. The strategy has also considered the draft Regional Spatial Strategy for economic and population growth, which has identified Gloucester, Swindon, Bristol, Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth as main growth centres.

Chris Rayner, route director, Network Rail, said: “The Great Western is seeing record-breaking rail performance and sustained investments that is radically changing passengers’ experience. Demand for rail travel has grown significantly over the last decade, and while this success is welcomed, it brings with it the challenges of meeting this demand as we continue to improve today’s railway.

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“It is essential that we have a robust strategy in place to build a bigger and better railway and the support we receive as part of the consultation process will play an important part in shaping the future of rail services on the Great Western.”

Mike Greedy, Passenger Focus manager, said: “This is a very important process which gives passengers the opportunity to highlight any realistic aspirations for the future services in their area and we encourage passengers to take part in Network Rail’s consultation.”

The emerging strategy focuses on easing on-train crowding and removing performance pinch-points. If funding is available, some of these options will be delivered from 2014 onwards.

The majority of the options have demonstrated a positive business case, while some of them will require further evaluation during the consultation period.

Consultation of the draft Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy ends on 27 November 2009 with the final document published in early 2010.

This will be put forward to inform the Department for Transport and to help shape its future high-level strategy for the industry’s next funding period from 2014 to 2019.

Recommended options that require funding from either government or third parties or further review include:

1. Capacity and connectivity

- Longer trains between Reading station - Gatwick Airport in the morning and evening peak periods with an additional four vehicles.

- Longer trains with an extra nine vehicles for services going into and out of Bristol Temple Meads on the Cardiff - Portsmouth, Cardiff -Taunton and Gloucester - Weymouth routes. This is on top of the 12 extra trains that have already been proposed to the government for consideration.

- Additional cross-Bristol services throughout the day to provide

i. an hourly Bristol Temple Meads - Yate;

ii. an hourly Bristol Temple Meads - Bath and

iii. an hourly Westbury - Chippenham or Swindon

- Further appraisal on the business case for two additional signals between Stonehouse - Standish Junction to enable up to four trains per hour to run between Swindon - Standish, offering a diversionary route for trains to run during engineering work.

- Improve service pattern between Paignton - Exmouth to half-hourly and Barnstaple to St. James Park to hourly

- Further analysis on services from the West Midlands to the South Coast and South West, to examine connectivity and capacity issues during the consultation period.

- Further analysis of capacity on the local and long-distance services into and out of Paignton during the consultation period.

2. Performance

- Continue development work on options for enhancing Didcot North Junction.

- An additional platform at Westbury station.

- An extended passenger line from Bristol Temple Meads - Parson Street to remove bottleneck.

3. Journey times

- Reduce journey times by up to nine minutes between Cardiff – Portsmouth by changing the calling patterns of one morning and evening peak services between Westbury and Bristol Temple Meads. In addition, introduce an additional service between Westbury and Bristol Temple Meads to cater for the intermediate stations.

- Increase linespeed between Bristol Temple Meads - Bridgewater to 125mph

- Further analysis to consider options for raising the linespeed between Gloucester – Severn Tunnel Junction during the consultation period

Key committed enhancement schemes with prospective or secured funding from government or third parties:

1. Electrification of the Great Western main line: Paddington -Bristol/Swansea and Paddington - Oxford/Newbury routes. Development work has started and construction is planned for 2014 onwards.

2. Intercity Express Programme to provide a new generation of trains to replace long-distance high speed trains to boost capacity on the Great Western. Expected to be delivered from 2016 onwards.

3. Modernise signalling on the Great Western main line with the new in-cab European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) to enhance operations and support capacity improvements. Expected to be from 2016 onwards.

4. Reading railway re-modelling scheme to deliver a 37% improvement in train service performance reliability in the Reading area by 2015. Reading will benefit from this project as will the many destinations that Reading serves, including London Paddington, Bristol, South Wales, Cornwall and Oxford, along with London Waterloo, Gatwick Airport and the south coast.

5. Crossrail to make travelling in the London and South East area easier and quicker whilst reducing crowding on London’s existing transport network. Construction work scheduled for 2010.

6. National Station Improvement Programme to provide better service environment at select key stations, including Slough, Newbury, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Chippenham, Exeter St. Davids, Truro, Castle Cary, St. Austell and Penzance. Funding for Tranche 2 roll-out is being confirmed.

7. New bay platform at West Ealing station to boost capacity. To be implemented as part of Crossrail and by 2013.

8. Reading Green Park new station is a third-party funded scheme to serve business community. To be completed by 2011.

9. Maidenhead – Twyford platform extension to cater for longer suburban trains in advance of Crossrail. This scheme may be superseded by government’s strategy for extra vehicles to meet the specified capacity metric for London.

10. Southampton to West Coast main line gauge enhancement scheme to allow modern, larger containers to be moved throughout the country from the port of Southampton via the Thames Valley. The scheme will also provide for a gauge enhanced diversionary route via Andover and Lavistock

11. Conversion to passenger use of the up and down goods loops at Oxford.

12. New south facing bay platform at Oxford station.

13. North Cotswold line redoubling scheme introduce 20 miles of extra track to provide additional capacity and improve performance.

14. Westerleigh Junction - Barnt Green linespeed improvement of up to 110mph, cutting journey time between Bristol – Birmingham and South Wales to Birmingham. Delivered by 2013.

15. Bath Spa capacity upgrade to increase capacity through the station area, reducing platform re-occupation time

The draft proposal has also taken into consideration the impact of prospective schemes – new lines, Paddington Station re-modelling, western rail link into Heathrow, AirTrack, East West Rail, Evergreen III – Bicester Chord and the re-opening of the Portishead branch line for passenger services.