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Great Western Railway

Entire UK Hitachi InterCity fleet suspended for checks after cracks found on chassis of trains

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There’s been disruption across the UK rail network today after cracks were found on the chassis of several Hitachi 800 series trains used by a number of train operators.

Services in South Wales have been cancelled, with Great Western Railway not operating any trains between London Paddington and Swansea.

A spokesperson for train manufacturer Hitachi Rail said: “Some Class 800s have been taken out of passenger service as a precautionary measure to allow for thorough investigations. We are working with partners to resolve this issue as quickly & safely as possible. We would like to offer our sincerest apologies to passengers impacted.”

Network Rail has advised that there is “major disruption” on the network today and is advising customers not to travel by rail between London Paddington and Swansea.

A spokesperson for National Rail said: “A number of Class 800 series Hitachi trains from several train companies have been taken out of service today for checks as a precautionary measure. This problem is being investigated by Hitachi and once trains have been checked, we hope to be able to release them back into service as soon as possible.”  

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A spokesman for Great Western Railway said: “A number of Class 800 series Hitachi trains from several train companies have been taken out of service today for checks as a precautionary measure.

“This problem is being investigated by Hitachi and once trains have been checked, we hope to be able to release them back into service as soon as possible.

“This will affect a significant number of today’s Intercity services and local lines are also likely to be extremely busy. Customers are advised not to travel. Refunds will be provided and customers should visit gwr.com for more information.”


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Armed Forces

Swansea civic dignitaries send poppies to Paddington

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Swansea’s Lord Mayor, Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff and the council leader were among dignitaries to gather at High Street station earlier this morning for a special Great Western train to take Poppies to Paddington.

To mark Remembrance Day, Great Western Railway organised a Poppies to Paddington operation that saw wreaths sent from towns and cities across its network to be laid at the war memorial on Platform 1 at Paddington Station.

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A special Remembrance ceremony took place on the station concourse (Image: Swansea Council)

A special Remembrance ceremony took place on the station concourse to mark the occasion, before wreaths were hand-delivered to train staff for the safe journey to London.

It is the second year that the tribute has taken place.

Lord Mayor of Swansea, Cllr Mary Jones and High Sheriff of West Glamorgan Joanna Jenkins carrying wreaths along Platform 2 in Swansea train station (Image: Swansea Council)

More than 100 wreaths were taken by train to the capital from towns and cities altogether, as GWR again joined forces with The Veterans Charity to coordinate the Poppies to Paddington operation.

Lord Mayor of Swansea, Cllr Mary Jones said: “I would like to thank Great Western Railway for working with our Armed Forces on arranging this tribute and for inviting Swansea and other communities across the UK to take part.”

Leader of Swansea Council, Cllr Rob Stewart and the council’s Armed Forces Champion, Cllr Wendy Lewis carry wreaths to be placed on the London-bound train (Image: Swansea Council)

Danny Greeno, CEO of The Veterans Charity, said: “Working with GWR last year was brilliant and really helped make it special, so this year there were many more operators, expanding it even further.

“The pandemic hasn’t gone away yet, so this was for the veterans, who can see that Remembrance is happening in a very unique way. Plus it celebrates the deep links between the railways and the military.”

Wreaths from Swansea placed on the London-bound train (Image: Swansea Council)

Lt General Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, said: “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of those people who put others before themselves. During the national remembrance period Great Western Railway is once again commemorating the services and sacrifice of members of the Armed Forces along their routes who, by their very duty, put others before themselves.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Cycling

Funding award gives green light to school cycling initiative

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An innovative cycle maintenance and safety awareness scheme led by pupils from Gowerton Comprehensive School has received a funding boost from the South West Wales Community Rail Partnership.

Launched in February 2021, the Partnership’s ‘Community Changemakers Fund’ is aimed at supporting people and organisations wishing to deliver improvements in communities across the region. 

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More than sixty applications were received from individuals and organisations seeking a share of the £16,000 fund, which was supported by Transport for Wales, Great Western Railway, Siemens Mobility and the Community Rail Partnership.  

Administered by the Carmarthenshire Association for Voluntary Services (CAVS) and the Community Rail Partnership, between £300 and £1,000 was available to apply for; with the main criteria being able to demonstrate how funding and small interventions could improve community well-being and being located near the rail network.

In a recent community survey undertaken by the school, 89% of respondents said they would use a cycle maintenance facility while 72% said they would be interested in taking a cycling safety course. Many of the individuals interested in the safety course were adults over the age of 35.

Sue Davies, Head of physical education at Gowerton Comprehensive School, said; “The grant funding is the first step for our cycling project. The funding will enable us to equip our cycling maintenance facility and allow us to train pupils in Level 1 and Level 2 Cycle maintenance.  They will work alongside Kevin Rees of Gower Cycles to coordinate a Cycle Maintenance facility, which will be available to all members of the community.”

She continued; “We are also linking with the Active Journey team to develop a safe pathway to school initiative and to increase the number of pupils who can safely walk or cycle to school.  As part of the health & wellbeing curriculum, all year 7 and 8 pupils will have the opportunity to follow a safe cycling or cycle proficiency programme.  We are confident that they can cycle to school safely and that cycling can play a part in their lifelong journey as healthy active individuals.”

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Part of the funding received from the Community Rail Partnership will be used to purchase cycle maintenance tools and stands.

Hugh Evans, head of community rail for Transport for Wales, said; “We are delighted to support this initiative.  It’s great to see pupils developing new skills while helping to promote healthier and safer cycling in the community.”

GWR Community Manager Emma Morris said; “We have a specific pot of money designed to support community and not-for-profit organisations. These projects will help to enhance thousands of lives across South Wales and we know the funding will be put to good use.”

Rob Morris, Managing Director, Rail Infrastructure, Siemens Mobility UK&I said; “I’m delighted that Siemens Mobility can support the Changemakers Programme. Initiatives like these help local people proactively drive positive change – particularly important in challenging times – and I’m pleased we were able to work with South West Wales Connected to create new opportunities for community engagement.”

Formed in 2020, the community rail partnership covers the rail routes west of Port Talbot to Swansea, Carmarthen, Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven and Fishguard Harbour.  

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Its objectives are to develop positive partnerships between the rail industry and local organisations to promote social inclusion, sustainability, health and well-being, green travel, tourism and economic development across the region.

Lead image: Pictured left to right are; Jennifer Barfoot (Community Rail Officer), Toni Cardew (Projects & Impacts Officer), Kevin Rees (Cycling Coordinator Gowerton Comprehensive), Sue Davies (Head of PE, Gowerton Comprehensive) and Cassey Williams (Head Girl Gowerton Comprehensive)

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Great Western Railway

Weekend rail maintenance work may affect journeys on South Wales mainline

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Some train services via Bristol Parkway will be affected by essential track maintenance planned to take place over weekends in October.

Maintenance work both inside and on approach to the Severn Tunnel will impact trains between London and South Wales on four weekends.

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Network Rail engineers will undertake a range of critical work including track and drainage upgrades as well as surveys and repairs on a number of bridges, tunnels and masts between Bristol Parkway and Severn Tunnel Junction.

Weekends of 9/10, 16/17 and 23/24 October, and Sunday 31 October:

  • Trains between London Paddington and Swansea will not stop at Bristol Parkway
  • These services will use an alternative route between Swindon and Newport instead – extending journey times by around 40 minutes
  • Trains will still run between Taunton and Bristol Temple Meads, and between Portsmouth Harbour and Bristol Parkway instead of Cardiff Central
  • Train services will also continue to run from Bristol Parkway towards the Midlands, the North of England or Scotland as well as towards the South West
  • Travel via Bristol Temple Meads instead for trains towards Swindon, Didcot Parkway, Reading or London Paddington
  • Buses will replace trains between Bristol Parkway and Newport – running non-stop every 30 minutes and stopping at all stations hourly.

GWR Customer Service Manager, South Wales, David Bailey said: “This work is vital to ensure the safe operation of the railway for years to come, and we thank passengers in advance for their understanding.”

Miles Harvey, Network Rail Scheme Project Manager commented: “We would like thank passengers for their patience and understanding while we complete this essential work.

“The railway line between England and south Wales is a vital artery in Britain’s transport infrastructure and this work needs to be carried out to ensure we can continue to provide a safe and reliable route for passengers and freight for many years to come.”

There are also plans to carry out work between Bristol Parkway and Swindon when long-distance services are diverted away from this route.

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This planned engineering work will help to protect a key route for customers travelling between South Wales and London or Bristol for years to come.

Work will be suspended on Saturday 30 October when Wales are due to play New Zealand at the Principality Stadium in the 2021 autumn internationals.

Rugby fans travelling via Cardiff Central for the game should however note that train services will be affected the following day, Sunday 31 October.

(Lead image: GWR)

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