Christmas upgrades: spotlight on the Western route

Dozens of improvements along the Western route will deliver more seats, faster services and more reliable infrastructure to passengers this Christmas.

This festive period, we’re carrying out £29m of upgrades on the route. They’re part of a national programme of more than £148m of vital upgrades executed by a 25,000-strong workforce.

They come amid our £50bn five-year Railway Upgrade Plan - the biggest sustained investment in the railway since Victorian times.

The railway will remain open for ‘business as usual’ as most of the network will be unaffected by upgrade work.

However, we remind all passengers to check before they travel because there will be significant changes to services on some routes.

London Paddington station

What’s the Western route?

It stretches from London Paddington to Penzance, through Bristol and up to the boundaries with Wales, Worcester and Basingstoke.

The route incorporates the core stations at either end of the Great Western Main Line – London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, which we own and manage. We recently renovated these Grade I listed stations, replacing roof glass and ironwork and improving facilities for passengers.

Bristol Temple Meads station

In fact, we’re making the biggest investment in the Great Western Main Line railway since Brunel built it more than 150 years ago. Modernisation will improve journeys and stimulate economic growth in the South West and beyond.

Our electrification of one of Britain’s oldest and busiest railways will provide greener, more reliable journeys and improving connections across southern England and South Wales.

This project is also part of our London Railway Upgrade Plan, creating new connections and increasing capacity in peak hour by 30 per cent.

How are we improving the route this Christmas?

  • Electrification will take place through Severn Tunnel Junction. This will follow previous works to lower the track through Patchway Tunnel to provide the clearance for overhead line equipment to power electric trains. We have also previously installed masts and overhead line equipment through Pilning towards Severn Tunnel Junction.
  • At Acton Main Line, Ealing Broadway and West Ealing, cranes will lift staircases and lift shafts that will form part of the new accessible footbridges connecting the new Crossrail ticket halls to platforms.
  • Between West Drayton and Maidenhead, engineers will begin work on hundreds of metres of platform extensions to allow the introduction of longer Great Western Railway and Elizabeth line trains next year.
  • Meanwhile, we’re upgrading stations between Maidenhead and Paddington in preparation for Elizabeth line services.
  • We’re also renewing track near Southall, upgrading the track near Westbury and strengthening a bridge near Guildford station.

Station information for passengers