By Jon Davies, Network Rail programme director, Western route.
“These are exciting times for the railway as we work to transform rail travel for future generations.
“We’re working hard as an industry to meet growing demand, as the figures show that passenger numbers have doubled in the last 20 years – and they’re expected to double again over the next 25. At Network Rail, we are improving the infrastructure to make way for more and longer trains to meet that growing demand.
“Great Western Railway (GWR) are already offering more than 3,000 seats than this time last year thanks to the newer longer trains they’ve now got running on our route. More and more of them are being added to local commuter and intercity routes all the time. Our work at Network Rail is underpinning this. A huge amount has already been achieved, and we’ve got two major milestones for Bristol and the surrounding area this year.
“This represents about £130m in investment and is absolutely crucial if we’re going to be able to have the capacity improvements we need to see. Not only will the new system be more reliable, but it will also be able to cope with an even busier network.
“From 2019 it will support a significant increase in train services, ensuring a safe and efficient railway, managed from the state of the art Thames Valley Signalling Centre at Didcot.
“The signalling upgrade is needed ahead of our Filton Bank four-tracking project – the second major milestone for the Bristol area, that is due to be completed at the end of this year. By adding two extra lines between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood it’ll be possible to run more local services, and it’ll almost double the number of trains running between Bristol and London Paddington.
“Looking further ahead to the future; our updated signalling system is also necessary if we are going to expand the network. With bids for funding in place for our aspirational Metro West scheme, the upgrade this Easter will give us greater signalling capability.
“Unfortunately, these huge transformational projects can only be delivered through a period of disruption, to give us full access to work on the railway over a concentrated period. As a result, this Easter, there will be no trains running to or from Bristol Temple Meads from Friday 30 March to the early hours of Wednesday 4 April for the full five days while this work is being carried out.
“Lots of buses are being brought in to keep Bristol open for business, but some journeys may take longer than normal. Please do allow extra time if you are travelling while this work is taking place. Tuesday 3 April is a working day and while replacement bus services will be running they will be busy. Please bear with us – the benefits of these improvements are just around the corner. Keep an eye on our websites and Twitter posts, using #SignalBristol for more information.”