5 minute read – Work progressing well at Bristol East Junction as major track upgrade reaches half-way point

Passengers are set to benefit from brand-new track and better journeys when travelling to and from Bristol Temple Meads station. 

The Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, is visiting Bristol today (Thursday 12 August) to see the progress Network Rail is making on completing the £132m Department for Transport-funded project. 

Network Rail engineers have been working around the clock to complete the track upgrade which involves removing a bottleneck into Bristol Temple Meads and installing a clever new track layout just north of the station. This will allow more trains to enter and exit the station, increase capacity, reduce congestion and help make journeys more reliable. 

The eight-week project started on Saturday 10 July and is scheduled to finish on Friday 3 September. In addition to replacing the 1960s track and components, work is also ongoing to install state of the art signalling equipment. 

Engineers have already replaced over 2.1km of track, laid around 7,000 tonnes of ballast (stones that support the track), completed over 400 welds and realigned 200m of copers to suit the new track alignment design on platforms 1, 3 and 5 to ensure the safe and smooth running of the railway.  

Last weekend (7-8 August) work continued to remove the old signalling gantry and upload the data onto the new signalling gantry, which was installed over the Christmas period last year (2020). 

Attention now turns to the London side of the junction whereby engineers will repeat the similar process of digging out and replacing the old track and stone, focusing on the railway lines towards Bath Spa and London Paddington.  

As part of the upgrade of Bristol East Junction, an extra line is also being introduced which will support new suburban services in the future as part of the West of England Combined Authority’s (WECA) MetroWest scheme. Once complete, this scheme will provide over 4,000 additional seats on trains every day in the area. 

This track upgrade work is part of the wider Bristol Rail Regeneration programme that will see a number of improvements to the iconic Bristol Temple Meads station over the next three years, representing a major investment in sustainable transport in the region and creating a major transport hub that will serve millions of passengers each year and support business right across the region. 

Changes to train services

While this work is ongoing, there will continue to be a number of timetable changes to train services, including bus replacement services at times. Passengers are reminded to check before travelling and where possible plan ahead of their journeys. For more information and for the latest timetable changes, please visit GWR.com/Bristol or crosscountrytrains.co.uk/Bristol

©Network Rail

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This £132 million investment will mean more regular and more reliable trains with more seats coming through the station as we increase access to opportunities and better connect communities across the region.  

“Alongside this we are doing an extensive refurbishment of Bristol Temple Meads, providing better passenger facilities and improved accessibility.  

“This is another great example of how we are building back better in Bristol and levelling up the South West.” 

Michelle Handforth, Network Rail’s Wales & Western managing director, said: “I’d like to thank for all passengers for their continued patience as we do this huge piece of work in Bristol.  

“This is a highly complex piece of engineering and once finished, will bring huge benefits in the future such as more trains, more seats and more reliable journeys. The improvements at Bristol Temple Meads will also help transform the station and improve journeys. 

“Work will now continue and in the meantime, I urge passengers to keep planning ahead and checking before they travel, particularly during this period.” 

Richard Rowland, GWR customer service and operations director, said: “This work will in time help us to deliver 4,000 more train seats a day into the city, on more services through Bristol and help to reduce the conflict between long-distance and local stopping services, helping to maintain the reliability of our trains.  

“We continue to operate trains through Bristol for the vast majority of the period, but there continues to be some alterations to timetables and journey frequency, so please do check what is best for you if you’re travelling.” 

Tom Joyner, CrossCountry’s managing director, said: “When finished these important improvements will make rail travel to and from Bristol a better experience with more trains able to arrive and depart on time. 

“Until then we’d like to thank our customers for their patience while the work takes place, and ask them to check their journeys carefully to see if there are any changes.” 

For more information about the Bristol Rail Regeneration programme please visit  networkrail.co.uk/bristolrailregen 

5 minute read – South Western Railway commits a further £265,000 to community rail, as the Reading to Ashford, Windsor & Eton partnership joins the club

South Western Railway (SWR) has announced that it is committing a further £265,000 to Community Rail Partnerships across its network, with a new alliance on the Reading to Ashford and Windsor & Eton Riverside lines just launched. It brings the total number of community rail partnerships across SWR’s network to 12.

Community Rail Partnerships – or CRPs – are not-for-profit organisations that help connect SWR with the communities it serves. Connecting people and communities is at the heart of SWR, and CRPs focus on a wide range of projects which aim to:

  • promote sustainable and healthy travel
  • bring communities together
  • support social and economic development

The new CRP will stretch from Reading to Ashford and Windsor & Eton Riverside, and work with local schools and community groups, with a focus on supporting people who face barriers to travel. Seven stations in the area have already been “adopted” by local arts societies and organisations that support those in the community who have mental health needs and disabilities, and the CRP will be partnering with these groups to provide further support.

The funding from SWR is invested in both projects and employing an officer for each CRP, who delivers  the community activity. SWR is actively involved with each CRP, working in partnership with them to deliver outcomes that benefit as many people as possible.

Tim Barkley, Chair of Southeast Communities Rail Partnership CIC said:

“We are very grateful for the support from South Western Railway in creating our new Community Rail Partnership. Communities and railways work hand in hand together to promote social inclusion, support local businesses, involve local communities, and encourage travel by rail.

“We are looking forward to welcoming passengers safely back on board to take them on a journey of discovery to experience the best that that our region has to offer – whether that be culture, countryside, water sports, leisure activities or outstanding food and drink.

“What better way is there to have a relaxing and stress-free day out than taking the train to enjoy all that our beautiful part of the Thames Valley has to offer?”

Paula Aldridge, Community Rail Manager, South Western Railway commented: 

“Despite the challenges of 2020 and 2021, community rail has continued to grow across our network.

“South Western Railway is delighted to have supported so many vibrant Community Rail Partnerships, and we look forward to continuing our work with these organisations, and others, in 2021 and beyond.”

5 minute read – Passengers to benefit from more reliable journeys following three days of track upgrades in Weybridge

©Network Rail

A three-day project to upgrade the railway near Weybridge in Surrey, between Saturday 7 and Monday 9 August, will improve reliability and increase train speeds in the area – but passengers are asked to check before they travel as it includes a weekday.

Network Rail engineers will renew sets of points – which allow trains to move between tracks – and replace worn-out track between Byfleet and New Haw and Weybridge. The scale of the work means that there will be major changes to train times.

It will allow us to remove our two longest standing speed restrictions which have been in place since 2017 which slow trains to local services between London Waterloo and Woking and long-distance services between London Waterloo, Exeter, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

Passengers are advised to plan ahead as trains to and from London Waterloo will be diverted, leave earlier or later than normal and call at additional stops between 7 and 9 August. Local services between Woking and Surbiton and Weybridge and Chertsey will be replaced by buses.

Making the most of the closure, engineers will also improve the canopy at Weybridge station and renew electrical cables in the Esher area.

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “We really appreciate the patience of our passengers while this upgrade to deliver faster and more reliable services takes place by removing longstanding speed restrictions.

“I know how inconvenient it is to close the line for three days including a Monday, but having looked at passenger numbers, delivering the work in this way will be less disruptive than spreading it over several separate weekends.

“We’re taking advantage of the closure to deliver as much work as we can and I would encourage passengers to check before travelling and to plan ahead.”

Alan Penlington, SWR’s customer experience director, said: “The improvements to this important section of track near Weybridge will improve reliability and punctuality for years to come. Removing these speed restrictions will mean trains can run at line speed again which is great news for our customers.

“With the line closed for three days, one of which being a working Monday, I know there will be some inconvenience for anyone traveling whilst trains aren’t running and I’d like to thank all our customers for their patience whilst these much needed improvements take place.”

When the points are renewed and the track’s alignment is corrected, trains will be able to pass through the area at the full speed of 90 miles per hour, keeping them on time and improving performance.

Hard working train cleaners celebrated in eye-catching campaign at Bournemouth station

From today (Thursday 15 October), visitors to Bournemouth station are being met with a series of new posters paying tribute to South Western Railway’s (SWR) heroic cleaning teams.

The Cleaner and Cleaner campaign, which is the result of a collaboration between SWR and strategic design consultancy DK&A, highlights the sterling work of the cleaners, who have worked harder than ever in recent months to keep customers safe.

One of the new eye-catching posters features one cleaner holding a broom, with the caption: ‘Welcome to Bournemouth. We keep cleaning so you can keep travelling’. Another simply says: ‘You keep handwashing, we’ll keep disinfecting’.

The campaign is not only intended to highlight the exceptional work of cleaning teams, but also provide customer reassurance and urge people to take some simple steps to protect themselves and others.  

SWR has radically increased its cleaning activity since the start of lockdown over six months ago, with cleaning teams now regularly using a powerful sanitising product which provides strong, long-lasting antimicrobial protection against a range of bacteria, viruses and pathogens.

Cleaners have also been paying particular attention to regular touch points such as ticket machines, grab handles, stair handrails and door buttons.

The campaign launch comes after DK&A conducted a wide-ranging research exercise which considered the views of a variety of internal and external stakeholders to gauge customer needs.

Alan Penlington, South Western Railway’s Director of Customer Experience, said:

“Since the outbreak of coronavirus, key workers from across the rail industry have gone above and beyond to help keep our customers safe. Integral to this work has been our heroic cleaning teams, who have worked night and day to dramatically enhance our cleaning regimes.

“It is entirely appropriate for Bournemouth station’s cleaners to be recognised in this striking way, and we want these posters to remind our customers that we are doing everything we can to keep our stations and trains as safe as possible.

“We need everyone to play their part in keeping our passengers and colleagues safe. We’re asking all of our customers to regularly wash their hands, keep their distance and wear a face covering unless exempt”.

David Kester, DK&A’s Managing Director, added:

“We were looking for ways to raise awareness of the new cleaning regime at SWR so that we might reassure customers and nudge practical actions that can keep us all safe to travel.  The inspiration came directly from front-line staff at Bournemouth who helped us shape the concept.”

Isle of Wight’s Sandown makes shortlist in public vote to find Britain’s favourite railway station

The people of the Isle of Wight are being urged to get behind Sandown this week as it competes in an online poll to be crowned winner of the 2020 World Cup of Stations.

The World Cup of Stations, returning for its second year, will give the people on the Island a chance to cheer on their local station as it competes in the top-flight of social media polling. The competition comes as stations up and down the country welcome more people back to the railway supporting communities and local businesses as Britain continues to learn to live with COVID-19.

The competition will see 48 stations large and small representing each region of the country competing in a series of online polls starting today. Regional and national heats are sure to stoke rivalries. By Friday, the competition will have been whittled down to a final four with one of Britain’s 2,579 railway stations named the nation’s favourite on Friday evening.

A Cinderella story unfolded last year when Huddersfield saw off competition from some of the country’s biggest and busiest stations, including nearby juggernaut Leeds. Sandown will look to repeat the giant-killing trick this year as they start out in the regional group stages.

Sandown begins the competition in the South East group with SWR station Hedge End, along with Aylesbury and Sevenoaks.

The Isle of Wight Community Rail Partnership (CRP) and the Gaslight Café have been an inspiration to the Island’s community. As stories emerged of some people on the Island struggling to cope financially and to put food on the table, the partnership agreed with SWR to help fund Food on the Move. This brilliant initiative has prevented many vulnerable people going hungry during the current COVID-19 crisis.

Tony King, South Western Railway’s Flagship Station Manager for the Island, said:

“We can go far and we could even have the competition sewn up, with the support of our fans. It’s all to play for this year we just need to make sure that everything is left on the pitch.

“It’s been a tough year, and Sandown has been the focal point for many who’ve needed help during this crisis. Uniquely, the station has played a key role in keeping the local vulnerable people fed, with station staff and the local CRP really going above and beyond. These community champions richly deserve some recognition for their efforts.”

“We’re small but mighty, so let’s make the Island proud and win this competition!”

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group, which is organising the competition said:

“The World Cup of Stations is about celebrating the thousands of stations across the country many of which have been at the heart of their communities for more than a century. It’s also about recognising the friendly local faces who have kept key workers moving throughout the pandemic.

“As Britain gets moving again, their role in supporting local businesses and spreading opportunity is more important than ever.”

Post-match analysis will take place at the conclusion of each day of voting led by a bevy of railway experts and station enthusiasts.

Historian and presenter of UKTV’s “The Architecture The Railways Built” Tim Dunn said,

“Station-fans, assemble: it’s time to do battle. Pick your station but pick it well – ‘cause this is a game of 48 sides and 200+ platforms, yet only one can return triumphant and take home that much-coveted trophy. Your local station squad needs you – so don’t stand silent in the sidings, get out of that waiting room and cheer loud on social media platforms.

“My tip for chuffing to the top of the championships is old-timer Glasgow Queen Street – back on the pitch with a new spring in its step for 2020.”

You don’t have to save lives to be a customer service hero… but it helps

Ahead of National Customer Service Week, South Western Railway (SWR) asked its customers and crew to share their favourite examples of staff members going above and beyond to deliver outstanding customer service.

The response was truly heart-warming and served as a timely reminder of how many different ways there are to make a positive impact when you work on the railway.

Perhaps one of the most dramatic stories received involved Southampton Central station’s Ewan Smith-Wainwright, whose heroic actions helped save a customer’s life following a heart attack in June.

During a late shift, Ewan received an urgent call from one of his colleagues telling him that a man had collapsed on the station’s platform. Ewan and Welfare Officer, Dan Stephens, came to the man’s rescue by dialling 999 before performing life-saving CPR to resuscitate the customer and get his heart beating again.

Thankfully, the customer survived this ordeal and contacted Ewan personally to express his gratitude for saving his life. Ewan talks more about the incident below:

Another of SWR’s customers may not have needed someone to save their life, but they did need someone to save their holiday. Judith Baker, who works in the ticket office at Dorchester station, was praised for her ‘absolutely fantastic’ and ‘reassuring’ approach by a worried customer who left a bag containing their passport on an SWR train.

Quick-thinking Judith contacted the guard on the train, enabling the bag to be returned in time for the customer to catch her flight.  

SWR’s employees weren’t just commended for saving the day in an emergency; Graeme Sinclair was nominated simply for his consistently cheerful disposition and willingness to go the extra mile every day. Graeme – who works at Eastleigh station – constantly has a ‘big smile on his face’, which has made him memorable for those travelling on SWR’s network.

In the nomination, he was described as ‘an amazing employee’ and ‘the friendliest and nicest public transport man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting’.

Graeme explains his customer service philosophy:

Each day during National Customer Service Week colleagues will be featured on twitter (@SW_Help) for going above and beyond in their dedication to delivering excellent customer service.

Alan Penlington, SWR’s Customer Experience Director, said:

“We really appreciate our customers taking the time to submit these nominations and commend the recipients on the impact they have clearly made on people’s lives.

“These examples represent just a snapshot of the wonderful work I know our colleagues carry out across the route on a day-to-day basis, as we strive to put the customer at the heart of everything we do.”

Passengers asked to nominate customer service heroes

South Western Railway (SWR) customers are being asked to share their stories of individual staff members who have gone above and beyond to provide excellent customer service.

This comes as part of National Customer Service Week, which SWR is using as an opportunity to showcase how these customer service heroes have made a real difference.

SWR is committed to putting customers at the heart of everything it does and is looking to celebrate the hard work and dedication of colleagues who have helped made journeys easier, more enjoyable or safer during this difficult time.

NCSW 2020

Have a great story about a train guard recovering your phone? Has a member of station staff helped you or a loved one to get where you needed to go? Customers can submit any story, big or small, about frontline colleagues who have made a difference to them.

Shortlisted colleagues will be profiled and celebrated throughout National Customer Service Week on social media between Monday 5 – Friday 9 October. Customers can nominate their ‘hero’, including a brief description, here: southwesternrailway.com/ncsw

The deadline for nominations is 2pm Friday 2 October. 

Alan Penlington, Customer Experience Director, said:

“National Customer Service Week is a great opportunity to celebrate the hard work and dedication of our frontline colleagues who have helped deliver excellent customer service.

“These have been difficult times, but our SWR team has been helping customers, including many key workers, to get where they need to be throughout the crisis.

“So, we’re giving customers the opportunity to say thank you to frontline staff who have made difference to them by nominating someone as a ‘Customer Service Hero’.”

After more than 80 years of service – Island Line’s trains ready to retire

South Western Railway is looking for new homes for its soon to be retired Island Line fleet.

The 5 Class 483 trains, built in 1938 for the London Underground, have been serving the Isle of Wight since 1989. However, as announced in September 2019, following a £26m investment to secure the future of Island Line, the current fleet is due to be replaced by the Class 484 trains.

South Western Railway is looking for new homes for the trains as soon as possible, to make room for the arrival of the first Class 484s for testing this year. SWR has already received several expressions of interest from preservation groups, including the neighbouring Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

Organisations interested in adopting a soon to be former Island Line train will need to demonstrate the capacity and financial security to remove and look after the train, as well as a suitable long-term physical location for the train. They may also need to prepare a plan to manage potentially hazardous substances where these remain on the units, which will need to meet the satisfaction of the Office of Rail & Road and other statutory bodies.

The trains are also subject to a statutory Designation Notice following the decision of the Board of Trustees’ of the Science Museum on 4 March 2020. Prior to ownership transferring, SWR would need to ensure the future plans for some or all of the vehicles were acceptable to the Board of Trustees.

The trains are in varying states of repair, with two of them having been used largely for spares in recent years.

Mark Hopwood, Managing Director for South Western Railway said: “The Class 483 trains have been running for 82 years, serving passengers first on London Underground and most recently on the Isle of Wight. Despite their age our team at Ryde St John Depot has worked miracles keeping these trains going to provide a vital service for the island.

“With new trains arriving, now is the time for these trains to find new homes, for a well-deserved retirement.”.

Organisations interested in rehoming a former Island Line train should express their interest by emailing 484Project@swrailway.com. The deadline for expressing interest is Wednesday 12 August.