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Great Western Railway

Hitachi Rail and rail industry agree service recovery plan to get trains back

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Hitachi Rail, train operators, and government have agreed, with oversight from the Office of Rail and Road, a service recovery plan to safely reintroduce more 800 Series and 385 Series trains to the network.

The fleet of 800 series trains was removed from service as a precaution at the weekend when cracks were found on some trains.

Following extensive safety checks on their trains, Transpennine Express, Hull Trains and ScotRail have been able to operate services across all of their routes since last weekend.

After further rigorous safety checks involving ORR’s HM Railway Inspectorate, GWR and LNER will now begin reintroducing trains with a more regular service for passengers. Trains on some routes may be less frequent than usual and train availability could vary, for a number of reasons, so passengers should continue to check with the operators before they travel.

Passengers are being advised to check the latest travel advice from their train operator. Eligible passengers are also being encouraged to claim refunds.

GWR’s fleet of Hitachi Class 800 trains have been out of action since Saturday (8 May) (Image: GWR)

Service Recovery Plan

The service recovery plan follows joint work between Hitachi Rail, train operators and the regulator around the safe return to service of some trains. Since discovering the faults, Hitachi Rail engineers and independent experts have completed rigorous tests and research to gain a clearer understanding of the cracking issue.

Based on the work undertaken to understand the issue, and after extensive engagement, Hitachi Rail and train operators, working with the rail regulator, have put in place suitable criteria for the trains to meet before they can re-enter service.

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The service recovery plan includes thorough inspections by specialist teams before trains leave the depot. Trains will only re-enter service if they meet agreed safety criteria. Working with Hitachi Rail, the rail regulator will continue to carry out rigorous oversight to ensure robust processes are being followed.

Over time, trains will be subject to a Forward Repair Plan, which will ensure the long-term continued safe running of the fleet.

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Andrew Barr, Group CEO of Hitachi Rail, said: “Today’s agreement sets out our joint plan for the phased reintroduction of our trains into service, which will continue to deliver the highest possible safety standards. Safety remains our number one priority, and we and our partners have worked round the clock to agree an approach that allows the return of trains to service where they have been deemed safe.

“With our service recovery plan now underway, the operators will begin reintroduction of trains as they are individually approved and deemed safe. We would like to thank our partners for their ongoing support as we work collectively to reintroduce more trains into service.”

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Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The safety of passengers has been the absolute focus for each of the organisations involved in making decisions about these trains over recent days. After some incredibly hard and detailed work, Hitachi’s engineers have worked with train operators and the rail regulator to safely bring some trains back into service. Over the coming days we will be able to get passengers on the affected routes moving again, but for now passengers should continue to check before they travel.”

Checks have been carried out on Hitachi Class 800 trains after cracks were found on the train’s chassis (Image: GWR)

HM Chief Inspector of Railways at the Office of Rail and Road, Ian Prosser CBE said: “We’ve engaged with Hitachi and the train companies to oversee their development of a safe and suitable plan.

 “We’re also continuing to provide the rigorous oversight needed to make sure the right checks are being carried out so that the trains are able to re-enter passenger service safely.”

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Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director, said: “Our customers have shown great patience over the past couple of days, and I am grateful for their understanding as we have worked with Hitachi to allow trains to return safely. This news will allow us to run some additional services today and reintroduce more consistent robust timetables for customers after the weekend.

 “The industry has come together to help support those travelling – with other operators allowing each other’s tickets to be used on their networks; adding in extra shuttle services to help move people; and in sharing rolling stock to provide it to those who need it most.”

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 David Horne, LNER Managing Director, said: “I am pleased we have been able to work as an industry to agree a service recovery plan with Hitachi and industry partners that will allow trains to return safely to our route. We are continuing to work together to begin the return of Azuma trains into service from next week. Customers should continue to check before they travel with LNER and I apologise for the disruption caused.”

(Lead image: GWR)


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Great Western Railway

More rail strikes set to seriously disrupt train travel

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Great Western Railway (GWR) have said that industrial action by the RMT, Aslef and the TSSA unions will severely affect trains across the GWR network this weekend and next week, with services unable to operate across many routes – including the South Wales mainline.

The action is planned for Saturday 13, Thursday 18 and Saturday 20 August, with days immediately after the strike days also affected. A significantly reduced temporary timetable has been put in place.

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Passengers are advised to find alternative ways to travel on these days and to only travel if absolutely necessary. The majority of GWR train services will not operate and there will be no services on many routes.

While Transport for Wales are not affected by the strikes, services may be very busy in places where GWR are unable to run.

Strike ballots are due to close on 25 August for train drivers working for Transport for Wales and represented by union ASLEF, so further disruption could still be on the cards.

On strike days GWR will operate an extremely limited service between 0700 and 1830, and last trains will leave much earlier.  Where trains are able to operate, they will be extremely busy. 

GWR has said it will operate as many trains as possible during the strike action, however the following travel advice is in place over the strike period: 

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Friday 12 August 
Trains will run as planned but will be busy, and with some minor changes to late night services. Please check before you travel. 

Saturday 13 August 
An extremely limited service will only operate between Bristol Temple-Mead and London Paddington, between Reading and Oxford and between Reading and Basingstoke, with services starting later and finishing much earlier than normal.

No other GWR services, including those in South Wales will run. 
 
Sunday 14 August 
Trains will continue to be severely disrupted, especially on long-distance intercity routes, with GWR asking passengers to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary. 
 
There will be no service on the Oxford to Worcester and Hereford route.

A reduced service frequency will operate on other long-distance routes including London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, London Paddington to Swansea, London Paddington to Plymouth and Penzance, and London Paddington to Oxford. 

Local stopping services will operate. GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.
 
Monday 15 August 
A normal timetable will operate. 
 
Tuesday 16 August 
A normal timetable will operate. 
 
Wednesday 17 August 
Trains will run as planned with some minor changes to late night services. GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.
 
Thursday 18 August 
A significantly limited service will operate, with GWR asking passengers to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary. 

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No GWR services will operate on the South Wales main line between Carmarthen and Swansea to Cardiff Central.

No rail services will operate on any lines in Cornwall, including all branch lines. No services will operate west of Newton Abbot (change at Exeter) or towards Plymouth and Cornwall due to no contingency signallers.

All branch lines in Devon including Barnstaple, Exmouth, Paignton, Okehampton will not see any service.

GWR Services will not run on the Berks & Hants line (Reading–Taunton via Castle Cary), Wessex main line (Bath Spa–Portsmouth Harbour), Heart of Wessex line (Westbury–Weymouth), TransWilts line (Swindon–Westbury via Melksham), Severn Beach line (Bristol Temple Meads–Severn Beach), North Cotswolds line (Hereford/Worcester–Oxford), South Cotswolds line (Cheltenham Spa–Swindon), Greenford branch line, North Downs line (Reading–Gatwick Airport) or between Worcester and Gloucester. 

GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.

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Friday 19 August 
Trains will continue to be disrupted, with passengers urged to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary. 

Trains will start later and there will be a reduced level of service throughout the day. Please check before you travel. 
 
Saturday 20 August 
An extremely limited service will operate. GWR services will start later and finish much earlier than normal. 
 
No GWR rail services will operate between Cardiff and Bath or on the South Wales main line between Carmarthen and Swansea to Cardiff Central.

No services will run between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington, between Bristol and Gloucester or between Bristol and Exeter. 

All lines in Cornwall, including all branch lines will see no service.

There will also be no trains west of Newton Abbot towards Plymouth and Cornwall. 

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All branch lines in Devon, including Barnstaple, Exmouth, Paignton, Okehampton will not see any service.

GWR Services will not run on the Berks & Hants line (Reading–Taunton via Castle Cary), Wessex main line (Bath Spa–Portsmouth Harbour), Heart of Wessex line (Westbury–Weymouth), TransWilts line (Swindon–Westbury via Melksham), Severn Beach line (Bristol Temple Meads–Severn Beach), North Cotswolds line (Hereford/Worcester–Oxford), South Cotswolds line (Cheltenham Spa–Swindon), Greenford branch line, North Downs line (Reading–Gatwick Airport) or between Worcester and Gloucester. 

GWR are asking passengers to check before travelling.

Sunday 21 August 
Trains will start later, however a normal level of service is expected. Please check before you travel. 

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Great Western Railway

Rail services to be severely affected this week as strike action looms

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The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) has announced strike action will take place on Wednesday 27 July, and train drivers’ union, ASLEF, has announced its members will strike on Saturday 30 July.

Great Western Railway (GWR) have said that none of its rail services will operate on the South Wales main line between Carmarthen, Swansea and Cardiff Central.

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Transport for Wales (TfW) say they are not involved in either dispute but its services will be affected, particularly on the 27 July, when the majority of services on the Wales and Borders network will be suspended.

Apart from core valley lines services, the only TfW services operating will be a Cardiff to Newport shuttle, with one train operating hourly in each direction, between 07:30 and 18:30 hours.

Due to the shift patterns of Network Rail’s signallers and the significant challenges moving trains and crew to operate between strike days there is likely to be disruption on Thursday 28 July as well.

On Saturday 30 July, TfW will be running a full timetable but say services are likely be impacted by strike action at other train operating companies. This could result in short-notice cancellations and changes.

Services from Swansea to Newport are expected to be very busy due to the reduced Great Western Railways timetable.

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Passengers are advised not to travel unless necessary.

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Great Western Railway

Severn Rail Tunnel to close for engineering works

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Trains that run through the Severn Tunnel between Bristol and South Wales will be affected as part of an ongoing programme of rail improvement work this July.

Network Rail say they will carry out essential track maintenance as well as testing the electrical power supply in the tunnel in July.

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The work will see more than two miles of track, sleepers and ballast (the stones on the railway) replaced to ensure the continued safe and reliable operation of the railway.

The new track will also enable the removal of a temporary 50mph speed restriction through the tunnel, improving passenger’s journeys and reducing the risk of infrastructure faults.

The track work will affect Great Western Railway services from Friday 1 to Sunday 10 July.

David Bailey, GWR’s customer service manager for South Wales, said: “The work inside the Severn Tunnel will support our train service in Wales, especially those trains running under electric power serving Cardiff Central and Newport.

“We will divert long-distance trains via an alternative route and provide road transport between Newport and Bristol Parkway to ensure customers can complete their journeys.”

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Trains between London and South Wales will use an alternative route between Swindon and Newport, stopping at Gloucester instead of Bristol Parkway.

A limited train service will still run between London Paddington and Bristol Parkway on weekdays only, otherwise they will travel via Bristol Temple Meads instead.

Buses will replace trains between Bristol Parkway and Newport, with customers advised to plan their journey beforehand.

In addition, buses will also replace trains at Lawrence Hill and Stapleton Road for Filton Abbey Wood or Bristol Parkway on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 July.

Follow-up engineering work is planned that will affect trains between Bristol and South Wales on Sunday 17 July and again on Sunday 14 August (until midday).

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Mark Dix, Project Manager at Network Rail, said: “The Severn Tunnel is a vital rail link for passengers travelling between Wales and England, so it is extremely important that we invest in its future.

“Once this work is finished, passengers travelling via Bristol Parkway will experience fewer delays with much more reliable journeys.

“I appreciate that this work is going to cause some disruption for passengers, so I would like to thank them in advance for their patience.”

(Lead image: Network Rail / GWR)

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