TRANSPORT FOR Wales Rail Services is aiming to start an open access service between Swansea and Bristol Temple Meads, commencing in December 2020.
The operator has notified the Office of Rail and Road of the plans for an hourly service calling at Neath, Port Talbot Parkway, Bridgend, Cardiff Central, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Filton Abbey Wood. Hourly services would depart Swansea between 05.21 and 20.21 (09.21 to 20.21 on Sundays), with departures from Temple Meads between 07.32 and 22.32 (with the first service at 11.32 on Sundays). The proposed rolling stock for the service is two-car or three-car Class 170 or 175 DMUs.
In 2017, the Department for Transport appeared to rule out TfW services through the Severn Tunnel until after the remodelling of Bristol East Junction (outside Temple Meads station), which it said may not be completed until 2024. It stipulated that bidders for the Wales and Borders franchise should not propose cross-border paths to Bristol.
Politicians in the region have argued for many years for an hourly Swansea – Bristol service.
The political pressure may now increase as a result of Welsh ministers abandoning their plans to build a £1.6 billion new motorway around Newport to ease congestion on the existing M4. They have established a commission to advise within six months on possible alternative measures.
Cross-Severn road traffic has increased this year, following the abolition of tolls on both motorway bridges in December, but main roads on both sides of the estuary were already congested at peak times. Estate agents have reported an increase in house sales in south Wales, where prices are relatively low, to people who work in the Bristol area.
TfW is also seeking to extend services from Holyhead and the Cambrian line which currently terminate at Birmingham International through to Coventry, again on an hourly basis. These would be supplemented by one additional Crewe to Coventry working in the morning and return in the evening, with calls at Stafford, Wolverhampton, Smethwick Galton Bridge, Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International.
TfW has already extended its reach into England with the launch in May of hourly services between Liverpool and Chester (p16). From December 2022 it will operate Liverpool to Llandudno hourly and Liverpool to Cardiff two-hourly.
Philip Sherratt/Rhodri Clark
Preparing for airport duties: a stud of 12 GWR Class 387s is being modified by Bombardier at Ilford for Heathrow Express duties, with a view to replacing Class 332s and allowing demolition of the Heathrow Express maintenance shed at Old Oak Common to allow redevelopment associated with the coming HS2 station there. This is No 387130 in its new airport colours on 22 May 2019. Leo Martin