Biggest timetable change since the 70s now only 150 days away - South West

Friday 19th July 2019

South West train services will be transformed from December, as Great Western Railway speeds up its timetable, offering faster journey times and more frequent services to key locations.  

Train services between Devon and Cornwall and London will be restructured to deliver a more consistent service pattern throughout the day, offering faster journey times and more frequent services to key locations from December this year.  

It is the biggest timetable change on the network since 1976, GWR’s Intercity Express Trains (IETs) will take advantage of recent infrastructure improvements to deliver a series of improvements.

Richard Burningham from the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership said: 

“This is great news for the local and regional economies of Devon and Cornwall, for the environment, and for rail customers. More seats, more trains and faster journeys will help with inward investment, with the switch from cars to public transport and will be a great support for visitors and commuters alike.  

“It is not just the journey time savings in long distance journeys to London, it is also about the significant improvement to many local trains across the two counties.  It is no exaggeration to say that Devon and Cornwall local services will be the best they have ever been and it is great to see that we will now see the full benefit of the investment in both track and train by Christmas.”

Three more services a day will run between Paddington and the south west, running non-stop between Reading and Taunton. Customers will see journey times reduce by up to 14 minutes on journeys between Penzance and the capital. 

A two-hourly semi-fast service between Paddington and Exeter St Davids will call at Reading, Newbury, Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary, Taunton and Tiverton Parkway.

GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:

“While December may seem a long time away for many, we have been working hard behind the scenes to prepare to implement the biggest timetable change on this network since 1976, enabling us to take advantage of the full benefits that new Intercity Express Trains are bringing.

“In providing more frequent and quicker journeys our new timetable will for the vast majority of users quite literally mean ‘all change please’ and we are looking forward to publishing further details soon.”

Changes will also take place to branch line services, designed to improve capacity at the busiest times of the day and provide a more consistent service throughout the day:

  • Longer, more modern trains will replace Class 143 Pacer trains on the Barnstaple line, giving a 17% increase in seats
  • New earlier first train to Exeter with an arrival time at Exeter St David’s of 07.31, in line with customer aspirations and an hourly calling pattern throughout the day, including the evening peak
  • Some intermediate station stops altered or removed to deliver the standard service pattern
Devon Metro
  • Devon Metro timetable recast to two trains per hour between Exmouth and Paignton, operated by four car services, with all Exeter Central services extended to Exeter St Davids
  • Saturday services for Dawlish Warren increased to half hourly
  • Timetable significantly recast to enable an hourly service to operate throughout the day between the busiest stations on the line. This will allow 15 round trips throughout the day on the line, in place of current 12, with off-peak services operating every two hours at intermediate stations.
Mike Gallop, interim route managing director for Network Rail, 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.”

The planned improvements are so significant, particularly for those who travel regularly and used to catching a particular service every day, that GWR is launching an awareness campaign to highlight the changes ahead, and make sure customers are prepared.

The timetable is expected to come into effect on 15 December, and the plans are subject to final industry approval including from Network Rail. It is expected to be published on 15 September. 

Notes to editors

Great Western Railway (GWR) provides high speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services. We help over 100 million passengers reach their destinations every year - across South Wales, the West Country, the Cotswolds, and large parts of Southern England. 

We’re currently seeing the biggest investment in the network since Brunel so we can offer more trains, more seats, and shorter, more frequent journeys and continue the network’s heritage of helping connect more businesses to new and prosperous markets. Through a series of initiatives we aim to be a good neighbour to the communities we serve and are committed to making a positive social impact in those regions. Learn how we're Building a Greater West at GWR is a FirstGroup company.