SWR announced faster trains this winter from Waterloo to Sherborne and to Honiton for example and these were well received and occupied, despite little chance of early advertising. Overall Sherborne in 1 hr 47 mins rather than 2 hrs 12 mins – wow, with existing 30 year old trains too.
SWR have issued an apology for the poor train availability during the latter half of 2018. This has been caused by the old age of the trains, engine issues, a change in engine maintenance supplier at Salisbury Depot, and the required general upgrading (CR6) for the units and work for Persons with Reduced Mobility work (PMR) which has to be completed by 2020. A greater number of units than usual, have been out of service, resulting in trains with fewer carriages, leading to overcrowding. There have been the cancellation of a few services as well, especially afternoon Exeter to Honiton/Axminster trains. These problems are being resolved and there appears to be a return to full formations early in 2019 and additional coaches on some service from that time.
SERUG’s Chair Bruce Duncan and Secretary Nick Hurrell, have attended two recent meetings at the House of Commons.
The first, in late February was to present the Railfuture/SERUG Proposals for long term investment to the MP’s whose constituencies adjoin the line. These can be seen in full, tagged below, as 1) the Presentation and 2) the Proposal.
Sir Oliver Letwin coordinated the group of MP’s and all stations on the Salisbury to Exeter section were represented. Our proposals, which provide major passenger benefits, including better reliability, capacity and time savings, were well received. In summary, they covered SERUG’s aims as outlined elsewhere on this web site, with track doubling from Dinton into a new platform at Tisbury, and a loop between Whimple/Cranbrook as the main priorities. A further loop between Yeovil Junction and Crewkerne would also help resilience for GWR diversionary trains. Finally, we proposed improvements at Yeovil Junction to allow trains to split and join, which would improve journey opportunities and actually requires minimal investment but simply need the will from Network Rail. The need for new trains was also highlighted. We believe our proposals are realistic – given budget constraints.
Sir Oliver, after consulting with his colleagues, wrote to the Rail Minister, Jo Johnson, supporting our proposals and requested funding to allow Network Rail to cost the work.
Subsequently, we were invited to meet the Rail Minister on 1st May. At that meeting we were informed that he has opened a “window” between 31May and 31 July 2018 to allow proposals for additional investment that do not currently sit within Network Rail’s future investment plans. The MP’s are keen that SERUG’s proposals form the basis of improvements to the Salisbury to Exeter section. We will now work with The West of England Strategy Group (Network Rail and South Western Railway supported) and the MP’s to produce a formal plan which also needs to have support from local Councils and LEP’s.
In summary, good progress, but there’s much work to be done! However, we are very hopeful that our continuing lobbying with stakeholder Network Rail, will finally start to see some real plans to improve services on this line.
The presentation – HOC-21-Feb-pres-2-final.pptx (230 downloads)
The Proposal – 21-Feb-2018-mtg-Proposal-final.docx (260 downloads)
We urgently require additional Committee members:
- Someone to take responsibility for Communications (currently this role is divided between 2 existing committee members, but now requires a person with marketing and social media skills).
- Membership and program secretary
- A railway engineer to help with our rail/track cost analysis.
Please email email@example.com if you’re interested in either of these roles….
Railfuture’s (Rf) complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority has resulted in First/MTR proposing a fares cap on the two routes between London and Exeter so that travelers are not disadvantaged by the company’s new monopoly position.
SERUG worked with Rf to make this application to ensure passengers are not disadvantaged. However the CMA decided only to consider London Waterloo and Exeter stations as the comparisons – intermediate stations are not considered – we think that a cop out and will continue to check the details as the franchise moves forward.