Wednesday 2 Dec 2009


Region & Route:
Wales & Western: Western
| Wales & Western

Bristol is set to significantly benefit from Network Rail’s seven-day railway vision, as the company introduces today a new initiative and technology to minimise passenger disruption.

Network Rail has joined hands with the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), with support from Passenger Focus, to announce an initiative to further reduce the need for replacement buses at weekends and bank holidays.

Bristol is among the top places on the 20 identified routes, where Network Rail and train operators aim to offer a rail journey in almost all circumstances.  The only exception is when the demands of rail improvement work make achieving this aim impractical.

The main line between London Paddington and Cardiff Central (via Bristol Temple Meads and Parkway) and Birmingham and Plymouth (via Bristol Temple Meads), which carry 60% of all weekend passengers, have been identified for special attention. 

Network Rail has also pledged that the Bristol area will be among the first in the country to benefit from a brand new piece of ground-breaking technology – the tilting wagon - that allows new track to be installed in less than 24 hours.

The new tilting wagon leads the way in significantly reducing the disruption caused to passengers by track improvement work that would normally take more than two full days to complete. 

Iain Coucher, Network Rail chief executive, said: "Today's punctual, reliable and safe railway has seen passengers flocking back. Their expectations for a decent service at weekends and at bank holidays have grown and we must respond. Keeping passengers on trains and off buses is our aim. We're working towards that and today's commitment sets us firmly on that path."

Michael Roberts, ATOC chief executive, said: “Train operators are delivering an ever better and more reliable service to their customers. With record levels of punctuality, we need to look at further ways of improving services, to attract more passengers to rail.  One way to achieve this is to ensure that, as far as possible, rail journeys at weekends and bank holidays are not interrupted by the need for a bus journey.”

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said: “We are pleased that Network Rail and the train operators have signed up to our pledge, making a clear commitment to keep passengers on trains wherever possible rather than use buses, and to ensure certain towns and cities are connected by train at almost all times. We have been asked by the government to monitor this."

Bristol is a key railway hub in the South West of England.  Based on recent forecast, passenger growth is anticipated to increase by 41% in the Bristol area in ten years’ time.  It is the biggest forecast growth in passenger number on the Great Western route.

Notes to editors

The Regulatory Target - Network Rail has been set a regulated target by the ORR of reducing the disruption experienced by passengers because of planned engineering work by at least 37% by April 2014 and is well on course to achieving this target

Seven-day Railway - Several years ago the idea was conceived to significantly reduce the amount of time taken to do big pieces of vital rail improvement work thus enabling a better service to be offered to passengers at weekends and bank holidays.  New engineering methods have had to be created, new machinery and technology introduced to make this vision a reality. Work is ongoing but good progress is being made.

Tilting Wagon - The wagon allows pre-constructed track panels to be brought directly to site and slotted quickly into place.  They are specially designed to be able to tilt their loads so that the pre-constructed panels of track, which are normally too wide to be carried by rail, can be transported directly to site. When the wagons arrive, the decks are moved back to a horizontal position for the panels to be unloaded and slotted quickly into place.

This milestone forms part of Network Rail’s modular switches and crossings programme, which focuses on carrying out as much of the construction work as possible away from the track to limit line closure times. Points are fully constructed and tested in factory conditions before being taken to site in modular panels to be installed quickly. Being factory built also improves their reliability and durability.

The replacement of a set of points has traditionally taken 54 hours.  This new technology will help  halve the time taken, but our target is to reduce this even further

Planning - These commitments will now become progressively embedded in the railway's forward work and improvement schedule over the next 2 years.

Contact information

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About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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