Passenger journeys from Bristol will be transformed from next year with more frequent services to London, quicker journeys and more seats per train.
The transformation in rail travel will be possible thanks to Network Rail’s biggest ever signalling upgrade in Bristol this Easter, as well as the building of two new tracks along Filton bank.
The £130m signalling upgrade in Bristol, which forms part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, means that for five days, from Good Friday to Tuesday 3 April buses will replace trains between Bristol Temple Meads, Patchway, Bristol Parkway, Bath Spa, Weston-super-Mare, and on the Severn Beach line. Long distance services between London Paddington and South Wales will run as normal; between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads services will terminate at Bath Spa.
The signalling improvements together with the doubling of the tracks along the Filton bank, which will be complete later this year, means that GWR will be able to provide passenger with a more frequent, faster service from Bristol towards London, and with up to 24% more seats per train.
As well as the railway upgrade, GWR are replacing 40 year-old High Speed Trains with new Intercity Express Trains; which will enable the train operator to increase the number of services from Bristol to London from four an hour to seven.
Tony Lamb, senior sponsor for the project at Network Rail said:
“A huge effort has been made to now be in a position to deliver Network Rail’s biggest ever signalling upgrade this Easter as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.
“Once complete, along with Filton Four Tracking at the end of this year, rail journeys in Bristol will be transformed with more seats, quicker journeys and more services.
“I would like to thank everyone who helped us get to this stage and also passengers who have remained patient with us throughout the upgrade.”
GWR operations director Rob Mullen said:
“This work is vital for GWR to be able to continue to deliver the full benefits our new Intercity Express Train fleet is bringing, including seven trains an hour between London and Bristol and quicker journey times – further supporting Bristol and its economy.”
The Bristol Area Signalling Renewal and Enhancement (BASRE) project is set to be delivered after signalling gantries and cables were successfully installed recently in preparation for the upgrade.
The re-signalling, alongside Filton Four Tracking which is doubling the lines between Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway and to be completed after BASRE – is crucial to support the introduction of a new timetable in January 2019, where GWR will be able to deliver its full complement of new trains and passenger benefits.
This signalling upgrade is only possible after a months’ worth of work was delivered over the Christmas period; including installation of 30km of cable; upgrades to signalling gantries; 124 tests of the signals, as well as axle counter upgrades.
Alstom, who specialise in modernising railways, delivered a significant part of the signalling upgrades alongside Network Rail throughout December.
Nick Crossfield, managing director, Alstom UK and Ireland, said:
“Alstom is proud to have been a part of Network Rail’s Team Orange in December, helping to deliver a better railway for everyone who uses the Western route.
“Key work included helping to get the railway ready for Crossrail, with one of the largest and most complex signalling upgrades ever. While around Bristol, we conducted full preparatory work for the upgrade we plan in April, giving us the confidence that we are ready to deliver that work smoothly.”