Published at 07:15 on Tuesday 8th October 2019
Tags: GWR, December 2019, Timetables, Network Rail, IET, Class 800, Class 802, Class 165

The new timetable will bring slightly faster services, and although exact times are still going through final industry approvals, it is expected that journey times from Paddington to Plymouth will improve by eight minutes, and Penzance by 11 minutes. Has it been worth the huge expense and disruption though, just to save 11 minutes on a five hour, 304-mile journey? Hitachi-built Class 802/1 No. 802107 stands at Plymouth as it awaits departure for Penzance with a service from London Paddington. Richard Tuplin

GWR has stepped up its publicity ahead of the major timetable change in December.

Regular users are being asked to check their new journey times ahead of the biggest timetable change on the network since 1976. GWR’s new Class 800 and 802 sets from Hitachi will take advantage of infrastructure improvements and faster acceleration to run to a fully electric timetable between Bristol and London for the first time. Other changes will also have an impact, the long problematic bridge at Stevenson, which has required services to run through at reduced speed on diesel power because of issues over limited clearances for the OHL, has been resolved with services now able to operate at up to 110mph on electric power through the structure.

From December three extra trains will operate between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington in the morning and evening peaks, increasing the frequency of service from two an hour to three, although the extra trains will call at fewer stations. Two additional services in the morning and evening peaks will also operate from South Wales to Bristol Parkway and then direct into London Paddington. From May 2020, GWR plans to extend these extra peak time trains to operate throughout the day. 

There are also more improvements for customers travelling into the city between Cardiff and Portsmouth, a popular route for commuters travelling to and from Bristol, as GWR continues to roll out more modern, Class 165 and 166 Turbo sets, replacing the current Class 150 fleet, while the Severn Beach line, which was the first to see newer, longer Turbo trains to improve capacity in 2017, sees a significant improvement to Sunday services with trains extending through to Severn Beach. 

Around 50% of GWR’s stopping services between Reading and London Paddington will be transferred to Transport for London Rail from 15th December, although GWR will continue to operate services between the two stations, with services that call at intermediate station stops, many of which will be extended to Didcot and will be formed of Class 387s working in triple formations.

Changes will also take place to Devon and Cornwall branch line services, which are designed to improve capacity at the busiest times of the day and provide a more consistent service. On the Barnstaple branch, there is a new earlier first train to Exeter on weekdays, arriving in the City at 07:31, and this is then followed by an hourly calling pattern throughout the day, including the evening peak, although some intermediate station stops are altered or removed to deliver the standard service pattern. The Class 143 ‘Pacer’ trains will also be replaced, giving a 17% increase in seats. The Devon Metro timetable has been recast to two trains per hour between Exmouth and Paignton, operated by four-coach trains, with all Exeter Central services extended to Exeter St Davids, while on Saturdays, Dawlish Warren gains a half hourly interval service.

In Cornwall, the timetable on the Looe branch is changed to enable an hourly service to operate throughout the day between the busiest stations on the line. This will allow 15 round trips on the line, in place of the current 12, with off-peak services operating every two hours at intermediate stations. 

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