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Bristol to London in 68 minutes: everything you need to know about the biggest rail timetable change in decades

It's Great Western Railway's biggest overhaul of the timetable since the 1970s. Credit: ITV West Country

The first non-stop train in decades will operate between London and Bristol from tomorrow, promising commuters a journey time as short as 68 minutes.

On Sunday 15 December Great Western Railway is launching its biggest timetable change since the 1970s to offer people faster and more frequent services.

More than 1000 new journeys will be launched, including the first non-stop trains between London and Bristol in decades.

Passengers are being warned to check before they travel. Credit: ITV west Country

Those travelling at certain times from Bristol Parkway to London Paddington will have journey times as short as one hour and 8 minutes - that's 12 minutes off the current fastest service.

From Bristol Temple Meads, the fastest service will be cut by 17 minutes to just one hour and 19 minutes.

The number of services on this route is also going to increase, from 3 per hour to 3 during peak times.

A combined effort of Network Rail's electrification of the line between the West Country and the Capital - and the new intercity express trains - are behind the improvements.

What does this mean for trains in the West Country?

68 mins
Fastest journey time between Bristol Parkway and London Paddington

If you're travelling between Bristol and London, it's good news for most.

There will be an additional two trains per hour to Parkway and Temple Meads at off-peak times.

At peak times, the operator is adding an additional service each hour, which will only call at Chippenham and Bath Spa.

There will also be another service each hour between Paddington and South Wales - running non-stop to Bristol Parkway.

Other changes in the West Country

  • London to Plymouth/Penzance service will run non-stop between Reading and Taunton.
  • Semi-fast service from London to Exeter, where changes may be made to serve Pewsey, Westbury and Castle Cary.
  • Cardiff to Taunton service will have more seats and improved carriages.
  • London to Cheltenham via South Cotswolds becomes hourly through service.

Local changes

It's not just trains to and from London that will change from Sunday 15 December.

Richard Burningham from the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership said local services "will be the best they have ever been" once the changes are in place.

  • Exeter to Paignton will become a half hourly service.
  • Exeter to Plymouth/Penzance - extra services added.
  • Looe and Barnstaple Branch will become hourly.

Is it all good news, though?

The launch of the May 2018 timetables saw services crippled in parts of the country, with blame attributed to Network Rail, train operators and the Government.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “This time around passengers need the rail industry to deliver a smooth set of timetable improvements – so they can reliably use both new and existing services.

“Many passengers should have a greater choice of services with more seats as result of these changes. However, there will also be some who lose out with fewer or slower services.

“Train companies must have plenty of visible staff on hand to guide passengers, to answer questions on how these changes will affect them, and to explain what travel choices they have.”

The RDG sought to reassure passengers over the upcoming timetable, stating that the industry has put “years of work into drafting, consulting and planning for these changes”.

Robert Nisbet, the organisation’s director of nations and regions, urged passengers to check their journey details in advance as many times are changing.

He added: “Train operators and Network Rail will be working together to run a reliable service and respond quickly to any teething problems as people get used to the change.”

Regular passengers are being warned to check before they travel as many times and stops are changing.

For more information, click here.