Wednesday 18 March 2015

TWSW - SWT [3]

Proposals in Practice
SouthWest Trains' business development manager, Cheery Chris Loder, outlined the improvements to the Waterloo to Exeter service that are due to come in with December 2015 timetable change.
At morning "commuter arrival" time at Waterloo, there already is a train about every 30 minutes from Yeovil ...
... likewise evening peak departures. This proposal will extend this frequency to operate from the 1250 departure from London right through with the exception of the 1450. Existing Gillingham "shorts" will be extended.
Some of these will work back to Waterloo in service hence the three "additional trains from Yeovil". Sor far, so good and an obvious opportunity to extend the service. The SWT diesel units (class 158 and 159) have the best availability stats in the country so "sweating the assets" makes some sense.

So to proposal No. 2.
fbb guesses that this represents 8/9 trains in each direction! This shuttle to Pen Mill and back will be during otherwise "dead" layover time at Yeovil Junction.
Pen Mill is a better located for the eastern residential areas and the bus that serves Junction also calls at Pen Mill having looped through some of the housing.
Several other services call at the Station Approach stops. There is only limited parking at Pen Mill so commuters will doubtless still use Junction but kiss and riders may well find the new service helpful. But, with connectivity in mind, passengers from the Bristol to Weymouth service will be able to interchange.

How easy that will be will depend on the detailed timetable which SWT have not yet released.

Now this gets interesting. But surely, we hear you cry, Bruton and Frome are of the main Great Western line from Paddington (i.e. London) to Taunton. Indeed, but there are only two through  trains (Monday to Friday) from Frome and none from Bruton.

So what is going on? Well, here is the cunning plan.
SWT already runs trains via Bruton! Not a lot of people know that (thanks Michael Caine). But they are not in passenger service. Apparently, according to the lad Loder, two trains each way use this route, but not in service, in order to maintain drivers' route knowledge when the service is diverted that way because of engineering work beween Salisbury and Yeovil.

So run these trains in service! Seemples!

And fourthly:-
At least one of these trains will run through to Exeter. Our Chris did not say whether there would be a similar train back from Exeter!

Sounds spiffing, BUT ...
... we already have a 1746 extra from Exeter to Axminster. The "half hourly service" will be provided by an additional 1646. But will they both terminate at Honiton, thus depriving fbb of a useful return from shopping trips to the big City? We must wait and see.

It is worth remembering that Devon County (BIG on rail) has aspirations for a half hourly service between Exeter and Axminster throughout Monday to Saturday. But they have to go off on a "hunt the train" expedition plus, one suspects, a more challenging "hunt the money" project. Time and its associated table will reveal all.

But, nevertheless, a full and overflowing bag of chocolate peanuts to SWT for initiative.

We need more of this from out largely unimaginative rail companies.

 Next bus blog : Thursday 19th March 


  1. Yes, it's good to see SWT proposing some additional services. It's a good plan to meet the route-knowledge requirement using passenger services instead of empty stock.

    However, from what I've seen, some of the proposed timings may not be ideal for passengers. I guess that's inevitable, given the need to make maximum use of the available units, and other constraints - but, for instance:

    - The two through trains to Frome and Bruton would leave Waterloo at 10.20 and 12.50. Not good for direct day return trips to London.

    - There would indeed be two trains per hour from Exeter to Honiton in the evening peak, but it's not a half-hourly service. Departures from Exeter St Davids at 16.25, 16.36, 17.25, 17.46, 18.25.

    The times are those given in the SWT application to ORR for track access rights - so they are proposed, provisional, subject to consultation, subject to approval etc etc. Still, you can see that they make sense operationally, so I'll be surprised if they change.

  2. The Exeter peak ones don't make sense as logically the 1625 should be the shuttle taking pressure off the 1636 which could run semi fast or fast to Honiton. Then again, that close together they make no sense so may as well run as one train splitting at Honiton so one bit can return. This whole plan does provide useful links and makes use of dead time very well but it is MUCH more about closing fare loopholes that won't exist once these trains start, not that SWT will admit that. I can see the through Weymouth via Yeovil trains being popular and hopefully connections with fGW at Westbury may be helped but then SWT have never cared about them as they extract some of their Exeter revenue.

  3. But why have a shuttle at 16.25 terminating at Honiton when every other Waterloo/Basingstoke/ Salisbury service leaves at xx25. Isn't that just likely to lead to confusion?

  4. The shuttle is supposed to relieve pressure on the through train but running 10 mins after will just carry air.Running the other way round does ruin the hourly pattern but at least should mean long distance passengers get a seat.

    1. I agree that running the shuttle 10 mins before, rather than 10 mins after, the London train would be more useful. But running an XX.36 beyond Honiton would disrupt the hourly pattern of down trains at Axminster.

      From the passengers' point of view, the best compromise would be a 16.46 from Exeter to Honiton (or, better, to Axminster). I assume that SWT have gone for 16.36 because it means that the unit can get back to Exeter in time to form the 17.46.

      What happened to all the talk about an additional loop at Cranbrook?

  5. Agree with you but with the padding at Honiton and by Yeovil the 1636 could run fast to Honiton and still pass the other train but not at Axminster instead on the approach and it would arrive in time to pick up usual departure time from Yeovil