Route 12 Reading to Penzance
Engineering access Engineering access on this route varies from being fairly restrictive on the main line to reasonably available on the branches. In many areas access is available on overnight possessions with consent from affected operators. Wherever possible, possessions are managed to ensure that a route is available to the west. The main considerations include no concurrent possessions from Southcote Junction to Exeter, or Bristol to Cogload Junction and Bathampton Junction to Bristol, or Bathampton Junction to Westbury. In addition there are restrictions on Friday night possessions throughout the summer to cater for the holiday market.
A different approach to heavy maintenance of the numerous West of England branches has been developed where workload requirements are such as to warrant extended midweek possessions (blockades) and bus substitution by agreement with the operator First Great Western. This current policy will continue in Devon and Cornwall timed mainly to meet school holiday periods when loading is reduced. On the Torbay line work is mainly carried out during school half term holidays. On the Gunnislake line work is mainly carried out during the Easter holiday period when commuter numbers are low.
Track renewals will continue on the Bristol to Exeter route, primarily to the south of Taunton, and on the Berks and Hants route for the next two years. This will be achieved through a combination of weekend and midweek possessions and continuous use of the High Output Track Renewals system in order to achieve the outputs required for renewal of the ballast and track. The system will require overnight single line working of sections of route with diversions of overnight services and stock moves. Conventional renewal will apply where operational restrictions (eg. level crossings, stations and junctions) prevent the use of High Output Track Renewals.
Network Rail’s High Output equipment is currently based at Taunton Fairwater Yard to allow rapid and frequent transit to the renewal sites on the route.
Network Rail Route Plans 2007
Opportunities and challenges We anticipate that accommodating the steady growth forecast for travel to and from the capital and other regional centres can be achieved within the service structure introduced by First Great Western. However, while this growth may be catered for locally it will have a major impact on known capacity constraints off the route such as the greater Bristol area, Reading and the Thames Valley where even higher growth is forecast.
Whilst it is clearly understood that the business community regard reliable journeys and connectivity with the London and south east business centres in less than two hours as extremely important, this can only be achieved east of Taunton. Three hour journeys are achievable from the Plymouth area on some business trains.
To meet the challenge of increased growth in freight from the Southampton ports to the Midlands, the north of England and Scotland, we are evaluating the potential for an alternative route via Salisbury and Melksham to accommodate W10 gauge traffic. This would cross the route at Westbury, which would ease pathing difficulties between Southcote Junction and Reading Oxford Road Junction.
Capacity improvement schemes currently undergoing evaluation are catalogued in the Infrastructure Investment appendices.