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Current capacity The highest take-up of paths is at the eastern end of the route, between Reading and Newbury, where west of England services have to fit between intensive passenger and freight movements (between Reading and Southcote Junction) on the immediately adjacent Basingstoke section of the Great Western Main Line (GWML), which influence how capacity is then shared westwards along the whole route towards Taunton. The capacity constrained Reading station restricts the ability to deliver additional paths on the route to meet future demand, particularly freight traffic for the construction of the Olympics’ sites and Crossrail.

In 2005 the Network Rail Route Director, in conjunction with the Territory Maintenance Director, set up the Performance Improvement Programme to target poor performing assets and implement ‘quick win’ remedial action. To date, this award- winning programme has delivered 56 of the 126 selected schemes across the Western Territory.

The Great Western Joint Board generally meets at three-monthly intervals and comprises representatives of Network Rail, all TOCs and FOCs using Western route infrastructure, DfT and Office of Rail Regulation, and focuses particularly on performance issues at a strategic level.

The single track Devon branches run at or close to capacity, as dictated by passing loop provision, whilst the Cornish branches, except that to St. Ives, operate somewhat less intensely. In the case of the St. Ives branch, utilisation has been increased to the maximum possible level as a result of the Community Railway initiative.

Figure 9 shows the current train service level in key sections of the route.

Current performance The route continues to suffer from a number of performance issues. A prime cause of delay is the increasing number of Temporary Speed Restrictions imposed throughout the route due to the poor condition of track, which is age related. Route performance, particularly west of Taunton, is also strongly influenced by late running long distance services from off the route. This, with the inability to recover lost time, generates further reactionary delay both on and off the route.

We are undertaking a sustained programme of track renewal to remove Temporary Speed Restrictions by the end of March 2009.

To improve operational management an Integrated Control Centre at Swindon has been introduced.

Figure 10 shows the current PPM for the main TOCs running along the route.

Future requirements Strategic direction The strategic vision set out within the Strategic Rail Authority’s Great Western Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) published in June 2005 involves simplification of the service pattern between Reading and Taunton so as to make better use of paths by means of deploying higher capacity rolling stock. West of Taunton, further simplification of the service pattern was identified. No case was foreseen for investment in any upgrading to give higher speeds.

The South West Regional Assembly’s emerging Regional Spatial Strategy covering the period until 2026, focuses on the implementation of an integrated Transport Corridor approach where local authorities will work with the rail industry to develop opportunities to facilitate modal shift, address overcrowding, improve strategic interchanges and improve use of the network to deliver spatial growth and congestion targets.

Figure 9 Current train service level (peak trains per hour)

Route Section

Number of trains

Newbury to Reading Exmouth branch (Devon) Totnes to Plymouth Falmouth branch (Cornwall)

4 3 2 1


As at period







Figure 10 Current PPM MAA (2006/07)


First Great Western South West Trains Virgin Cross Country

Network Rail Route Plans 2007

Route 12 Reading to Penzance


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