Review of 2018 – Tony Hill

Limited stop Relief trains ran over Christmas.
To try and cope with known extra passengers SWR sensibly and unusually these days, ran two additional (Relief) limited stop trains from Waterloo to Honiton on Fri 21 Dec. and from Honiton to Waterloo on Fri 28 Dec. which reduced journey times by up to half an hour and proved popular with passengers.They also ran three limited stop Relief trains to Weymouth on 21 Dec. and four from Weymouth on 28 Dec.These additional services are to be welcomed and we trust they will be repeated in the future when required.The resultant reduced journey times, gave a taster of what is hoped in the future will see introduction of some similar faster timetabled trains on the Waterloo – Salisbury -Exeter main line.We acknowledge that this is another example of innovative business thinking by a couple of ex SWT and now SWR Senior Managers  (other examples include the Yeovil to Waterloo via Frome & Westbury services and the well supported Summer Saturdays service (that were not cancelled due the ongoing strikes by RMT Guards) run from Salisbury via Yeovil to Weymouth and Corfe Castle for Swanage), sadly now rarely seen on the convoluted current Railway set up.

Taunton to Exeter line closure sees diversions via Honiton and Yeovil.
A planned three weeks closure between 18 Feb. & 8 March, of the ‘Western’ main line between Norton Fitzwarren and Cowley Bridge Jn, principally for work in Whiteball Tunnel, caused diversions  between Castle  Cary and Exeter St D via Yeovil PM/Jn and Honiton, roughly every two hours, of Paddington/Plymouth & vice versa Express trains. Some of these trains stopped for passenger purposes at Yeovil Jn, Axminster & Honiton; providing the latter station with (again) some welcome non stop services to Exeter.The Paddington to Penzance Sleeper and a couple of the remaining freight services west of Taunton were also diverted via the ‘Southern’. Generally, with the exception of an afternoon local commuter train from Exeter to Honiton, the normal Waterloo / Exeter line services were not planned to be adversely affected.The new Hitachi class 802 Electro-Diesel ‘Bimode’ Multiple Units have recently been tested for clearance on the Exeter-Yeovil-Castle Cary route to enable their use on this important diversionary route; particularly relevant with the expected completion of the programme to replace the HSTs by these new trains from the 19 May Timetable change.
The generally inferior punctuality of the Paddington trains compared with Waterloo services, does at times of diversions, regrettably impinge on the latter.
The first diversion via the Southern of a Paddington service formed by a new IET trainset, occurred on Thursday 10/1/19 when the 1204 Penzance to Paddington was routed this way because a preceding train had hit a deer near Tiverton Parkway and was unable to move for well over an hour.
Further planned diversions this year of Paddington trains are expected to take place between 9 and 14 November due to renewal of Cogload Jn. just north of Taunton.
Flood alleviation works completed .
Long needed major flood alleviation works between Axminster and Chard Jn that have seen the installation of two new large underpasses for flood water have been completed this past Autumn by Contractors for Network Rail at a cost of £9 million.No doubt the planned and emergency use of the Southern line as a diversionary route for the GW route’s Paddington trains has played a significant part in this work at last being done.
Tony Hill