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Faster Services from London to Cardiff?

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Shrop

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I don’t read these pages all that often, but I have just searched in vain for relevant comments on the London to Cardiff services. I wonder if anyone could respond?

I’ve just seen that Mark Langman, Network Rail’s managing director for Wales and Western, is quoted as saying “I am absolutely delighted that the Severn Tunnel is now fully electrified, resulting in a seamless rail link for passengers between Cardiff and London Paddington. Electrification has reduced journey times between South Wales and London by as much as 15 minutes.”

I’m wondering if these services are to be further sped up in due course? Looking at my 1981 timetable, the London to Cardiff time was 1h43m several times every day, whereas today after timings have apparently already benefitted from being reduced by as much as 15 minutes, every train still takes longer than this.

Okay, people will argue that all trains now have more stops, but do the people of South Wales really want to always stop at Reading, Swindon and Bristol Parkway?

Are there any plans for a faster service between these Capitals in the future, to at least have something better than the 40 year old timings to show for the vast sums that have been spent on this route?
 
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Watershed

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Okay, people will argue that all trains now have more stops, but do the people of South Wales really want to always stop at Reading, Swindon and Bristol Parkway?
Possibly not. But the people of Reading, Swindon and Bristol would probably quite like a reasonably fast train to London, as well as occasionally being able to travel to Cardiff without having to go via London ;)

Any timetable is going to be a compromise between different aims, and I doubt there is a sufficient demand to have trains which run non-stop from Cardiff to London. Particularly post Covid.
 

Shrop

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Possibly not. But the people of Reading, Swindon and Bristol would probably quite like a reasonably fast train to London, as well as occasionally being able to travel to Cardiff without having to go via London ;)

Any timetable is going to be a compromise between different aims, and I doubt there is a sufficient demand to have trains which run non-stop from Cardiff to London. Particularly post Covid.
I was really just thinking of two or three trains each way each day to give a faster option from Cardiff (and Newport). This wouldn't need to make much impact on the convenience of passengers from Reading, Swindon and Bristol, who presently have a service which is arguably, and comparatively biased in their favour.
 

cle

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There should be services slated which are fast to Bristol Parkway at least.

But yes, the railway has changed a lot towards frequency (and keeping to speed limits). Swindon is actually a pretty massive town, Reading is hugely important in both rail and regional economic terms, and Didcot needs the alt calls to act as an interchange and railhead for a wealthy, rail-sparse area. So it all has merit.

Ladbroke Grove factors here too. I'm not sure the restrictions work there will ever be 'un-done' to speed back up Paddington approaches - there are a few mins there.
 

Johnny Lewis

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When GWR launched their major timetable change in December 2019, there were two morning trains from South Wales to London and three evening trains from London to South Wales that ran non-stop between Bristol Parkway and London. There's nothing to suggest that these 'SuperFast' trains won't return at some point in the future, once the threat of Covid is behind us.
 

David Goddard

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Prior to Covid, and based on the premise that electrified railways attract more passengers, I would have advocated something like the following:

*Two per hour non stop to Bristol Parkway, one to Bristol Temple Meads & Weston Super Mare, the other to Newport, Cardiff and calls to Swansea.
This would have delivered a fast hourly service to Bristol and South Wales, with Bristol in 75 and Cardiff in 100 the standard time on these.
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Bristol Parkway - Newport - Cardiff. One to call at Didcot
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Chippenham - Bath Spa - Bristol Temple Meads. One to call at Didcot.

We will have to wait and see what happens with demand, but I would like to think that it will return to a reasonable level and something like this could still be justified.
 

HamworthyGoods

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Prior to Covid, and based on the premise that electrified railways attract more passengers, I would have advocated something like the following:

*Two per hour non stop to Bristol Parkway, one to Bristol Temple Meads & Weston Super Mare, the other to Newport, Cardiff and calls to Swansea.
This would have delivered a fast hourly service to Bristol and South Wales, with Bristol in 75 and Cardiff in 100 the standard time on these.
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Bristol Parkway - Newport - Cardiff. One to call at Didcot
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Chippenham - Bath Spa - Bristol Temple Meads. One to call at Didcot.

We will have to wait and see what happens with demand, but I would like to think that it will return to a reasonable level and something like this could still be justified.

How do you get from Reading to stations beyond Cardiff without changing? Reading to Swansea is a bigger flow than Neath to London for example.
 

David Goddard

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How do you get from Reading to stations beyond Cardiff without changing? Reading to Swansea is a bigger flow than Neath to London for example.
Well I suppose every suggestion/proposal/speculative idea is bound to have its downsides. Just like when LNER removed Peterborough from the Scotland fasts. Living at Reading I would naturally like as many through services to as many places as possible, but know it cant happen.

Tell you what, as we are in the "safe area" of Speculative ideas where we can propose things without fear of criticism or ridicule, lets be bold and change it to the following.

*Two per hour non stop to Bristol Parkway, one to Bristol Temple Meads, Weston Super Mare & Taunton, the other to Newport, Cardiff & Swansea (only).
This would deliver a fast hourly service to Bristol and South Wales, with Bristol in 75, Cardiff in 100 and Swansea in 145 minutes.
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Bristol Parkway - Newport - Cardiff. One to Bridgend, Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea. One calls at Didcot.
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Chippenham - Bath Spa - Bristol Temple Meads. One calls at Didcot.
 

mmh

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As much as I like Weston-super-Mare, I can't see it ever getting an hourly service to London. An improved service to the midlands would probably be more useful. Unfortunately an important connection for the town which doesn't fit neatly into the arbitrary world of TOC boundaries.
 

David Goddard

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As much as I like Weston-super-Mare, I can't see it ever getting an hourly service to London. An improved service to the midlands would probably be more useful. Unfortunately an important connection for the town which doesn't fit neatly into the arbitrary world of TOC boundaries.
Extend an XC Bristol terminator to Weston on one hour and a GW express on the next...
 

HST43257

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Well I suppose every suggestion/proposal/speculative idea is bound to have its downsides. Just like when LNER removed Peterborough from the Scotland fasts. Living at Reading I would naturally like as many through services to as many places as possible, but know it cant happen.

Tell you what, as we are in the "safe area" of Speculative ideas where we can propose things without fear of criticism or ridicule, lets be bold and change it to the following.

*Two per hour non stop to Bristol Parkway, one to Bristol Temple Meads, Weston Super Mare & Taunton, the other to Newport, Cardiff & Swansea (only).
This would deliver a fast hourly service to Bristol and South Wales, with Bristol in 75, Cardiff in 100 and Swansea in 145 minutes.
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Bristol Parkway - Newport - Cardiff. One to Bridgend, Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea. One calls at Didcot.
*Two per hour London - Reading - Swindon - Chippenham - Bath Spa - Bristol Temple Meads. One calls at Didcot.
Most of this, I really like. What I would change is:

Both didcot calls on either Bristol or Cardiff services, rather than 1 of each so it’s more clockface.
Perhaps don’t send the Cardiff express to Swansea, I’m not sure I see a need for it.
Maybe add calls south of Bristol on the Weston service, to work with Castle HST services.

So I’d maybe have:

2tph London to Bristol calling at Reading, Swindon, Chippenham, Bath and Bristol TM
2tph London to Cardiff calling at Reading, Didcot, Swindon, Bristol Parkway, Newport and Cardiff, with 1 extending to Swansea calling at Bridgend, Port Talbot, Neath and Swansea.
1tph London to Taunton calling at Bristol Parkway, Bristol TM, Nailsea, Yatton, Worle, Weston, Highbridge, Bridgwater and Taunton.
1tph London to Cardiff calling at Bristol Parkway, Newport and Cardiff.
 

The Planner

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Might get interesting once you get past Didcot/Swindon as I am assuming you want it as "clockface" as possible. Those fast ones are going to catch up with the semi fasts, freight is going to struggle jumping from Swindon to Challow to Steventon too.
 

HamworthyGoods

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You need calls at Didcot on at least one Bristol service an hour - the main purpose of Didcot outwith London commuting is connections from Oxford.

Oxford to Bath and Bristol is a much bigger flow than Oxford to South Wales.
 

HST43257

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You need calls at Didcot on at least one Bristol service an hour - the main purpose of Didcot outwith London commuting is connections from Oxford.

Oxford to Bath and Bristol is a much bigger flow than Oxford to South Wales.
Some of my ideas make more sense when the bigger picture is seen. I’d have long distance East West Rail services from, say, Cardiff to Norwich and Bristol to Colchester. These’d use the Oxford to Swindon curve, and there’d be no need for Didcot changes.
 

HamworthyGoods

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Some of my ideas make more sense when the bigger picture is seen. I’d have long distance East West Rail services from, say, Cardiff to Norwich and Bristol to Colchester. These’d use the Oxford to Swindon curve, and there’d be no need for Didcot changes.

Sounds like a lot more 4 tracking is needed between Swindon and Didcot! The class 6 freights struggle to loop hop already as it is!
 

anthony263

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Any idea if you could split and attach the IETs at Bristol parkway?

That way you could have 2tph london paddington - Bristol Parkway - Bristol Tm fast services .1tph could split at Parkway with 1 unit going to Cardiff Central calling at Newport and Cardiff parkwsy.

I think signalling through the tunnel will need to be looked at though to run more trains through
 

Bald Rick

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Any idea if you could split and attach the IETs at Bristol parkway?

That way you could have 2tph london paddington - Bristol Parkway - Bristol Tm fast services .1tph could split at Parkway with 1 unit going to Cardiff Central calling at Newport and Cardiff parkwsy.

I think signalling through the tunnel will need to be looked at though to run more trains through

Certainly possible, although the second train to depart would lose most of the saving of being non stop of course.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Showing my age - but in the 1976 timetable , there was no clockfacing Reading - Didcot - Swindon , but flighting (there was more slower freight around in those days and and the Avonmouth coal import 4 tracking on that section had not taken place at the time)

South Wales was blessed with a fast Reading - Parkway pattern on the Swansea services , with a few non stop Reading to Newport (Mon) , the other service was a slower Cardiff.

Weston had extensions on one of the Bristol services via Bath. Removed I suspect when the earning capacity of the sets was re-inspected , and the services re-jigged.

The very first Track Access consultation nailed down a clockface pattern , much objected to by freight.
 

irish_rail

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Any idea if you could split and attach the IETs at Bristol parkway?

That way you could have 2tph london paddington - Bristol Parkway - Bristol Tm fast services .1tph could split at Parkway with 1 unit going to Cardiff Central calling at Newport and Cardiff parkwsy.

I think signalling through the tunnel will need to be looked at though to run more trains through
Oh God please no more splitting and joining! I know its been done to death on here but it really doesn't work well on the western IC services....
 

ChiefPlanner

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Oh God please no more splitting and joining! I know its been done to death on here but it really doesn't work well on the western IC services....

I agree - with all the risks involved in resourcing train crew and so on , never mind the other factors.
 

irish_rail

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I agree - with all the risks involved in resourcing train crew and so on , never mind the other factors.
I think the huge costs involved have probably come as a surprise to the DFT in all honesty and I suspect that no one ever looked in detail just how expensive , time consuming, and unreliable splitting and joining IC services can be.... thankfully at Plymouth, for now the splits have been cut right back, and things seem to run much smoother, however I suspect its only a temporary reprieve and dozens more drivers will be recruited in order to allow it to return on a larger scale, despite the cost.
 

Dai Corner

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I think the huge costs involved have probably come as a surprise to the DFT in all honesty and I suspect that no one ever looked in detail just how expensive , time consuming, and unreliable splitting and joining IC services can be.... thankfully at Plymouth, for now the splits have been cut right back, and things seem to run much smoother, however I suspect its only a temporary reprieve and dozens more drivers will be recruited in order to allow it to return on a larger scale, despite the cost.
They're probably more familiar with the south east England operators who have been happily splitting and joining EMUs all day every day, probably since they were first invented.
 

mmh

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They're probably more familiar with the south east England operators who have been happily splitting and joining EMUs all day every day, probably since they were first invented.

It does make you wonder why splitting and joining only works in some places. Why do we continue to buy multiple units for the places where they somehow don't work?
 

Dai Corner

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It does make you wonder why splitting and joining only works in some places. Why do we continue to buy multiple units for the places where they somehow don't work?
I think the only place Cl800s are joined/split in service at the moment is Swansea (Carmarthen portions). They had some problems early on but seem to have mastered it now. Maybe it's just a matter of training and familiarity and we'll see it happening at places like Plymouth, Cardiff, Oxford and Temple Meads in future?
 

mmh

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I think the only place Cl800s are joined/split in service at the moment is Swansea (Carmarthen portions). They had some problems early on but seem to have mastered it now. Maybe it's just a matter of training and familiarity and we'll see it happening at places like Plymouth, Cardiff, Oxford and Temple Meads in future?

I hope so. I thought the whole point of the 5 cars was to improve services further than Bristol / Cardiff etc while maximising use of the mainline into London. The West Coast has had no qualms about splitting/joining trains for decades so I don't really understand why it's seemingly an issue elsewhere!
 

cle

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I hope so. I thought the whole point of the 5 cars was to improve services further than Bristol / Cardiff etc while maximising use of the mainline into London. The West Coast has had no qualms about splitting/joining trains for decades so I don't really understand why it's seemingly an issue elsewhere!
It should be done relatively close to the end - i.e. not congesting the whole network or slowing down the main journeys. E.g. Parkway split to TM and Cardiff is a time-suck and bad.

Splitting at Plymouth to send 5 cars hourly to Penzance? Makes sense! Or Swansea to go onwards... Edinburgh to head north etc etc etc. It doesn't penalize the core 'mission' - especially if one set goes ahead and one terminates. Vs going off in two directions.
 
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