The new December weekday train timetable for Gloucester and the South Cotswolds has been launched today, providing faster journey times, more seats and more frequent services to key locations. Users are being warned to check before travelling to avoid being caught out.
Regular travellers have been asked to check their new journey times for the biggest timetable change on the network since 1976. GWR’s Intercity Express Trains (IETs) are taking advantage of infrastructure improvements to run to a fully-electric timetable between Swindon and London for the first time.
The planned improvements are so significant, especially for those who travel regularly and are used to catching a particular service every day, that GWR launched an awareness campaign to highlight the changes ahead, and make sure customers are prepared. It is encouraging customers to find out more at www.gwr.com/timetable2019 before they head to their local station.
The changes will mean typical journeys between Cheltenham Spa to London will be shortened by 10 minutes to 2 hours. The fastest journeys will come in at 1 hour 57 minutes. These services will go via Swindon; which with new Intercity Express Trains replacing 40-year-old high-speed trains means an increase of 5,000 extra seats every weekday for the Wiltshire town.
Connectivity will improve too, with the number of through trains from London to both Gloucester and Cheltenham Spa doubling at off-peak times. This matches the peak-time frequency improvements delivered by GWR earlier this year and creates an hourly service throughout the day.
GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:
“This timetable has been a number of years in the making, enabling us to deliver the benefits of new Intercity Express Trains, and modernised infrastructure, for our customers. With the changes we realise that investment in trains and infrastructure, and deliver on the promise we made to customers for more services, more seats and faster journeys.
“More than 350 extra on-board staff have been taken on, more than 1,200 drivers trained, and we will have extra staff at stations throughout our network to help as we embark on this new journey.
“We have worked hard to help people understand how the changes will affect them. We have spoken with our customers as often as possible, possibly annoyingly so, to help ensure a smooth transition, but we all recognise there will be some issues to iron out as everyone gets used to the changes.”
The first train to Cheltenham from London today will also leave earlier at 0533 compared to 0733 previously, and the last departure will be at 2133, rather than 1948.
Network Rail Route Managing Director for Wales and Western, Mike Gallop, said:
“The timetable change this December will be the biggest since 1976 and will mean faster journeys and more frequent services for passengers.
“It follows unprecedented investment in railway infrastructure including electrification, improved signalling, upgraded stations and much more, which together with the introduction of new trains will transform rail travel.”
In the run-up to the timetable change GWR has sent six million emails to customers; put up hundreds of posters at sites across its network, both at stations and in the community; has run 60 meet-the-manager sessions at stations; has met with transport leaders across the network; and secured hours of airtime across the local media to raise awareness.