Wednesday 18 March 2015
TWSW - SWT 
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!
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