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Author Topic: Bristol via Westbury and Frome - status update on enhancement proposals  (Read 697 times)
grahame
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« on: April 07, 2019, 10:40:06 am »

From my Railfuture talk on Wider Wiltshire yesterday which included status updates for a number of current aspirations - ranging from improved and new services and through new stations and line improvements. In Wiltshire, I do not see any lines being (re)laid in the next few years.

These are elements which relate to Frome

Status update - Metro West to Wiltshire

Local trains from Bristol to Bath are to be stepped from hourly to twice an hour ... perhaps May or December 2020? It's not operationally practical for them to reverse at Bath Spa, and an extra turnback facility at Batheaston would cost a fortune. Suggestions have been to run them on to Swindon (via Corsham, Chippenham and Royal Wootton Bassett) or to Westbury (via Bradford-on-Avon and Trowbridge), with that latter appearing to be the option currently planned for implementation.

With employment growing faster than housing in Bath, and housing growing faster that employment in West Wilts, and with trains already very full on that route, an extra train each hour (up from 2 to 3 if you include the Cardiff - Portsmouth) makes sense.

With just 3 platform faces at Westbury, current operational constraints which restrict connectional timetabling could become worse. However, reducing terminating trains by linking Swindon - Westbury to Westbury - Salisbury at the time of change would help. Additionally, a local train arriving every 60 minutes and returning 10 (or 70) minutes later (as we have at present) would be replaced by a 30 minute cycle - allowing a 40 minute or 100 minute turn around - equal to a service extension to Frome or to Yeovil.

Status update - services via Frome

On the boundary of Wiltshire, Frome is a town of considerable size that suffers from big service gaps due to railway geography.

It is proposed to extend some SWR trains to / from Waterloo to or via Frome and / or Yeovil - first changes, May 2019

Changes in December 2020 at Frome and Yeovil Pen Mill will be purely to "shoehorn" the services between the mail line expresses as I understand it. Apart from the morning peak train to London and evening return, none of the new trains London trains will call at Frome - so no Taunton service (for example).

See also MetroWest which could well provide a half hourly service to Frome (hourly extension to Yeovil) and Go-op (Taunton to Nuneaton) which would provide on current plans services to Swindon and Oxford (around 6 per day) and Yeovil and Taunton (total of around 6 per day).

Status update - Go-op and Swindon to Oxford

Proposal for a Taunton - Frome - Westbury - Swindon - Oxford - Coventry - Nuneaton Open Access service. Identified potential flows look good / fill some much needed gaps. But Go-op have been working on this / similar schemes for a number of years and deadlines have slipped even more than is usual in the rail industry. They have something of a credibility problem; as a service subcontracted to an existing operator (could be a Midland one headed south, or one of the two already in Wiltshire) the trains would be very welcome and supported.

It's unlikely that both this proposal and the Swindon - Solent one (perhaps extended to Oxford - Solent) could both run as proposed - capacity issues. It should be the fervent hope of the passenger who want to see the present poor service between Westbury and Swindon, and Swindon and Oxford, stepped up to a decent level the the two schemes don't slog it out to the extent that both are left mortally wounded and we get nothing.

Audience reaction ... overall, the desire for better (more frequent) train links from Frome, with especial mention of services to Westbury from where connecting services run. A lack of knowing who to talk to / how to ask or campaign for realistic service improvements, and how to evaluate some of the options being suggested.
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