TIMETABLE CHANGES planned by First MTR for the new South Western franchise in December 2018 have been revealed.
The company has submitted a track access application to the Office of Rail and Road for what is planned to be the first of two major timetable changes for the franchise. The second will take place two years later, once the operator has taken delivery of a new fleet of Bombardier Aventra EMUs for suburban services, after which journey times will be improved on these routes.
On the Windsor lines, a 76% increase in morning peak capacity into Waterloo is promised. The 2018 changes will see the Waterloo to Reading service operate at four trains per hour (tph) all day, with all services running via Richmond. Waterloo to Windsor services will double from 2tph to 4tph, with the additional services operating via the Hounslow loop. The Ascot to Guildford service is split into two services, running at the current 2tph frequency between Ascot and Aldershot and between Guildford and Farnham via Aldershot. Also split is the Waterloo to Weybridge service via Hounslow, eventually running as a separate Waterloo to Hounslow and Virginia Water to Weybridge service, although until a turnback is provided at Virginia Water and sidings at Feltham, trains will run empty between Hounslow and Virginia Water.
On the main lines, the main change is that the second Waterloo to Weymouth service each hour is cut back to Poole and the Waterloo to Poole stopping service to Southampton. This will enable the current Portsmouth to Southampton stopping service to extend to Weymouth, taking up the paths of these two services. An additional semi-fast service between Portsmouth and Southampton will also be offered in parallel with this. Provision of a 4tph Waterloo to Portsmouth service will be facilitated by extension of the current Haslemere terminator through to Portsmouth & Southsea. First MTR says the 18 retractioned Class 442 EMUs it will introduce on the Portsmouth line will operate in fixed 10-car formations to avoid performance risks from splitting and joining.
The December 2018 timetable promises faster journeys to key destinations including Southampton, Bournemouth and Salisbury. A speed-up of suburban services will follow with the new Aventra fleet in 2020.
The application notes Network Rail cannot agree to the access rights sought at this stage due to the competing application from Alliance Rail to operate an open access service between London and Southampton, also using Class 442 EMUs. According to the application, NR is currently undertaking a capacity study of the Wessex main line on behalf of ORR to examine First MTR’s proposed timetable and the Alliance application.