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  • Network Specification - Western

    Planning documents for the Western route which covers the rail network from London, through the Thames Valley to Bristol, Exeter and Penzance

  • Illustration of the Royal Albert Bridge to represent our Western route

    Today’s railway

    The scope of the Western route is extensive and diverse, the focal element being the Great Western Main Line which runs from London to Bristol leading into the main line route through the south west to Penzance. This creates main line links between London and the South West and to Wales.

    Extending from this are radial routes to Oxford, the Cotswolds, Birmingham and the South Coast. Branch lines into the London suburbs, to the Devon and Cornish coast and dedicated freight only lines complete the mix of routes.

    Rail services within the route support long-distance, interurban and commuter passenger flows into and between the main centres of London, Reading, Bristol and Exeter. Significant freight flows also operate across the route and include intermodal, automotives and aggregate traffic serving a number of key freight terminals.

    Tomorrow’s railway

    There are a number of large investments proposed over the next 10 years including station improvements, service improvements and infrastructure interventions.

    Highlights include:

    • Electrification of the Great Western Main Line between London, Oxford, Newbury and Bristol by 2016, extended to Cardiff by 2017
    • New ‘Super Express’ trains as part of the Intercity Express Programme providing a fleet of new electric and bi-mode trains for services between London, the south west and Wales from 2016/17
    • Major station investment delivered through the Reading Station Area Redevelopment project and Crossrail
    • Significant investment to improve capacity and reliability with Oxford corridor capacity improvements, Western Rail Access to Heathrow and resignalling programmes
    • In the south west, capacity improvements proposed around Bristol and at Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway stations
    • Freight improvements include gauge enhancements between London and Bristol and improved capacity between Southampton and the West Coast Main Line and around the Oxford area

    Network specification 2015 - Western 1.3 MB
    Route specifications 2015 - Western 3.7 MB

  • The Network and Route Specification documents were published in April 2015 and were informed by the existing Route Utilisation Strategies as well as the Market Studies which were published in the Autumn of 2013 as part of the Long Term Planning Process.

    These documents will continue to be updated in line with the Long Term Planning Process and specifically the emerging Route Studies.

    More about the Long Term Planning Process

    The Network Specifications set out the current context, capability and future plans for the route.

    The Route Specifications form an appendix to the main Network Specifications and set out the capabilities of each strategic route section and future schemes in detail.


    We've changed the way we categorise our routes. If you're looking for previous Network and Route Specifications, please see our Network and Route Specification archive.

    If you're looking for a previous year's Route Plan, see our Route Plans archive.