5th July 2019: Notes from the Chair

It’s time to consider our achievements over the first four years of SERUG’s existence, and to thank our members for their support.

After many months of analysis and research, our proposals for the future of the line were made in 2018 at the House of Commons. Our 8 MP’s, with constituencies adjoining the line, supported the phased incremental plan of delivering long term service improvements and passenger benefits. Our proposals can be seen in the Archive page of this new website. Feel free to share the link with your friends and colleagues.

Joining the West of England line Strategy Group (WESG) in 2018, as one of the two passenger groups (the other is Travel Watch South West), allows us formal input to the line’s long-term future, i.e. to 2043, assisting the County and District Councils, LEP’s, Network Rail and SWR (the TOC), to agree the way forward. There has to be an application to the DfT before anything moves, so there is much work yet to be done.

Our primary proposal is the provision of double track sections and signalling to improve resilience, capacity and journey times. Pending such investments current passenger services have been helped by our work with SWR, for example the May 2019 timetable’s additional services between Salisbury and Yeovil Junction.

We are concerned about the efficiency of the current 30+ year old rolling stock, and will soon be involved in considering their replacement, although new coaches will not arrive until after the end of this SWR franchise in 2024. Also under consideration is extension of the 3rd rail electrification from Basingstoke to Salisbury / Yeovil Junction together with bi-mode trains, reducing diesel usage and offering faster acceleration and more efficient stock use.

The Vision is for a 100 mph railway (currently 85 mph max west of Salisbury), with double track (ideally throughout), capacity for Devon Metro services and also paths for a GWR diversion service without alteration to SWR services. Also, improved car parking, and stations with integrated transport (e.g. connecting bus services).

Our AGM’s, with well-known speakers, have become very well attended and brought us valuable opinions and experience. Newsletters and brochures help the message, but we need continuous passenger input to provide evidential support to our Proposals. This will support our goals which are to influence the parties in the railway industry and lobby the DfT and Government to deliver a better railway and passenger benefits for the West of England Line. The Axminster doubling and platform works took 20 years to reach fruition – we need to do it faster.

Passenger support is required and we hope to undertake passenger surveys this year.

I have no doubt that we will be seeing the MP’s early next year – whatever the political landscape looks like then. In summary, we have set the ball rolling however there is much work to be done to realise our goals. Thank you for your support.

Please tell your friends about us too!

Best wishes,

Bruce Duncan

Chair, SERUG

5th July 2019: Update on Train Punctuality: January to June 2019, by Nick Hurrell

Train punctuality is measured on a daily basis. For the Waterloo/Exeter line, a train is considered “On time” if its arrival is with 10 minutes of timetabled arrival at its destination. The PPM target is 89.2% of trains to arrive at their destination with 10 mins of advertised time. Sadly, actual performance has been below target every month so far this year:

January: 88.3%

February: 73.3% (GWR service diversions contributed to disruption)

March: 76.9% (GWR service diversions contributed to disruption)

April: 83.3%

May: 84%

June: 81% SWR Strikes and Glastonbury services skewed the figures – see below)

Interestingly, the June figures were affected both positively and negatively by the strikes and Glastonbury!

The averages for the strike days were good (89.3%), but of course SWR ran a very different and sparse timetable (and PPM is based on the timetable!), So on the 20th June, when the first train from Exeter to Waterloo was cancelled (it started from Salisbury), the rest of the day ran well, so a PPM of 90.7% was reported! Not much solace for passengers west of Yeovil, whose earliest possible arrival into Waterloo was 12.52!

Conversely, the additional services to/from Castle Cary for Glastonbury caused havoc with the timetable (PPM of 56.1% over that period). Trying to run up 20 services to/from Castle Cary per day rather than the usual 6 was bound to be risky, but credit must be given to SWR - at least they tried – and the prices on SWR to London are generally cheaper than GWR, which would surely have attracted a larger share of passengers. There were also delays/cancellations caused by staff shortages, at the same time.

9th March 2019 – Southern Western Railway announces May 2019 timetable changes.

SWR have announced the timetable changes which will come into effect on 19th May 2019. These include some modest improvements for services west of Salisbury. The changes affecting the West of England line can be seen on our Timetable page, together with the new timetable.

Follow this link for full details: SWR May updates