Wednesday 17 Feb 2016

Swindon railway upgrade means passengers should check before travelling this February

South East

Passengers travelling between Swindon and Bristol Parkway/South Wales over the weekend of 20-21 February are being advised to check before they travel as Network Rail carries out the final stage of a major signalling upgrade at Swindon as part of its Railway Upgrade Plan.

Signalling is the railway’s equivalent of traffic lights, controlling the safe, reliable movement of almost 25,000 trains a day across Britain. The new system at Swindon will replace equipment installed in the 1960s and 70s with the latest technology, paving the way for greater reliability and fewer delays for passengers.

It is also a vital part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan which includes work to electrify the Great Western Main Line in preparation for the arrival of a new fleet of longer, faster, quieter and greener electric trains.

Paddy Gregg, Network Rail’s signalling project director, said: “This project is a vital part of our programme to re-signal the whole of the Great Western route, providing passengers with smoother journeys and fewer delays.

“The earlier stages of installing the new equipment went well, with all work completed on time. We are now entering the final stage of the project before control of the railway moves from the signal box at Swindon to the state-of-the-art Thames Valley signalling centre in Didcot.

“Our work to increase reliability, together with the ability of the new electric trains to reduce journey times and accommodate more passengers, will also help to drive economic growth across the Thames Valley, west and south west England.”

Around 250 members of Network Rail’s orange army will be working along 10 miles of railway over 20-21 February, carrying out final testing of the new equipment, commissioning a new telecoms system and removing signalling gantries that will no longer be needed.

This extensive work will require a temporary closure of part of the line. As a result, Paddington to South Wales services (via Bristol Parkway) will operate every hour but will divert via Bath, extending the normal journey time by approximately 30 minutes.

There will be no disruption to services between Bristol Temple Meads and London via Bath, and between Gloucester and Swindon.

Paddy continued: “Testing new signalling equipment is very complex and for safety reasons must be carried out when trains aren’t running. I’d like to thank passengers in advance for their patience and understanding while we complete this essential upgrade that will pave the way for greater reliability, fewer delays and the advantages electrification will bring to both passengers and those who live close to the railway.”


Notes to editors

Further travel information can be found by visiting Great Western Railway’s website Alternatively, National Rail Enquiries also has up-to-date travel advice on their website

Members of the public who have questions about the work can call Network Rail’s 24-hour National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Victoria Bradley
Media relations manager (Western route)
Network Rail
01793 389749 / 07710 938470

About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 36,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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