Travel update news
14th March 2014: First Great Western announce additional seating capacity for South West High Speed Trains Having worked with the Department for Transport to secure further rail improvements for the South West, First Great Western have announced additional standard class seating capacity on long distance trains.Extra seats have been released by converting first class carriages to offer standard seating on High Speed Trains.
This is made possible by a joint investment of £13million in trains serving the South West with the Department for Transport funding the additional standard class capacity funding and FGW funding a refresh of their first class environment.This partnership approach will deliver almost 3,000 more standard class seats a day across the network, giving FGW customers nearly 16% more standard class accommodation on High Speed Trains into London in the morning peak. On 35 of the High Speed Trains FGW will be taking a first class carriage and converting it into a standard class carriage with 80 standard class seats. In addition to the extra seats, FGW have listened to customer feedback, with carriages having more 4-person tables. The other High Speed Trains will have a first class carriage converted into a composite carriage, half standard and half first, with the saloons fully divided with a door.All High Speed Trains will retain one and a half carriages of first class seating on every train. Even after these changes we expect the vast majority of services to have spare capacity in first class, and room for growth.
Knowing the importance of a premium service to its commuter, business and leisure customers, FGW is investing in a refresh of the first class carriages. This will include realignment of single seats, installation of privacy screens, new headrests, re-covered leather seats, new carpets, LED lighting and other changes designed to improve the experience for first class customers. Catering will not be affected as a result of the investment, both the first class at seat trolley service and buffet car service will continue to be offered and the Pullman dining services will continue.
A FGW spokesperson said: "All the work to convert the carriages and to refresh the first class environment will be done in the UK, with the work to the first class carriages being undertaken at our depot in Laira, Plymouth and the reseating work being undertaken in Scotland. The first completed carriages are expected to be running in June 2014, with the entire fleet completed by late summer 2015.Our programme to fit Wi-Fi to all these trains is unaffected. The first services with Wi-Fi will operate from June and by December of this year all our high speed trains should be offering the free service to both standard and first class customers.Ultimately, the only long-term solution to busy services is more trains. New Intercity Express trains are on their way, and we will keep looking for other opportunities to bring more trains onto the network, however, it will still be some time before they will be ready for service. The conversion of these carriages to create more standard class seating is crucial in the interim period and we are delighted to be able to do this for our customers. As well as the exciting news about the extra seats, we have just been given permission by the Department for Transport to implement some timetable changes in May and start a formal consultation on some important prospective changes for December. After the tough times the South West has faced in recent weeks, I am pleased to report that we will be making some changes that will help us get more customers to and from the region this summer. The changes will include the use of a High Speed Train on the Bristol-Weymouth route on summer Saturdays to provide more capacity to and from the coast; more capacity on the Cornish and Devon branches; use of a loco-hauled train between Par and Exeter on summer Saturdays and the extension of a high speed London service to/from Weston-super-Mare on summer Sundays.Looking beyond the summer we want to change our timetables to bring improvements that will really help the South West regional economy.
For some time we have wanted to meet the aspiration of stakeholders and customers to provide an earlier direct service from London to Plymouth and Cornwall and to speed up some services to and from the West of England.Under our proposals the current 0706 Paddington to Paignton service would run to Plymouth and key stations in Cornwall; achieving around a 40 minute earlier arrival than today’s first London train at Totnes, Plymouth and key stations through to Penzance.The present 0730 service from London Paddington to Penzance would run to Paignton via Bristol, retaining London connectivity. Torbay and Exeter would gain a 19 minute journey time improvement, with the 1106 Paignton-London train leaving later.From Cornwall high speed services to London would be more evenly spread through the day.
New journey opportunities would be created by the introduction of a 1133 Paddington to Exeter service and a 1453 Exeter to London service.There would be a number of consequential changes to local services in Devon and Cornwall and along the Berks and Hants route.Our consultation will involve representatives from across our network, including local authorities, business leaders and travel watchdogs representing passengers.These proposals would deliver a much improved service for the West of England, supporting economic growth through the enhancement of connectivity between major centres. As with any timetable there may be some changes that will not suit everyone. We have worked hard to minimise these and the vast majority of customers should find the changes offer them new opportunities and better timings. And we hope they will also win new business to the railway and the region.As we said when the interim franchise of 23 months was awarded last October, we would not be standing still and intended to still drive through improvements to improve the overall experience for our passengers. With the support of the DfT, and with the help of all our stakeholders and partners, we are doing just that, and today’s announcement shows what can be done if we all persevere and keep putting customers at the forefront of everything we do"
1st March 2014: Damaged Dawlish rail route to reopen on April 4
Read the full story here
20th February 2014: First Great Western update
Network Rail has today issued a media release noting that the line through Dawlish will now reopen in mid April, before Easter. This is later than originally anticipated due to further storm damage over the weekend. That said, there is the potential for the line to reopen earlier in April and Network Rail have over 100 people on site, 24 hours a day to try and achieve this.We both understand the importance to the local and regional economy of reopening the line as soon as possible. Every effort will be made to have services running in time for the significant numbers of visitors traveling to the South West for Easter.Our focus during the line closure is to be as responsive and supportive as we can to our customers. We are therefore developing the service put in place initially so that we have the best possible alternatives in place.Following a very helpful meeting with South West MPs and the Parilamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport we can now report that:
- Plans are being worked on for a 2135 service from London to Exeter, calling at Taunton, Tiverton Parkway and Exeter, with a fast coach from Tiverton to Plymouth and potentially Cornwall. This will help customers who would normally use the sleeper and need a late departure from London.
- Extra car parking is in place at Exeter and work has started on an additional car park at Tiverton Parkway. We expect this to be operational next week, less than two weeks from initial discussions with land owners to completion.
- We now have coaches running from Truro and Bodmin to Tiverton Parkway, including a pick up in Bodmin Town Centre with free car parking thanks to Cornwall Council. We are monitoring take up and will look at the potential to extend to Penzance.
- Agreement has been reached with Stagecoach South West to accept rail tickets on all their South Devon routes, including the number 12 route that runs through to Paignton. This ticket acceptance will be in place for the duration of the rail closure.
- We are also looking at the possibility of strengthening the service on the Paignton line. This is not straightforward as we have limited vehicles west of the sea wall breach and need to allow for maintenance. The situation is currently further complicated now that Penzance is also closed due to storm damage, which affects access to our Long Rock depot at Penzance, adding to the complexity of crew and train plans. We are keen to return to half hourly services however and hope to have a solution within the next few days.
- Additional services have been added to the bus plan for Torre station to support school students in Torbay. The changes were discussed with the school heads and a special leaflet has been designed for the schools to hand to parents. It can also be downloaded from our website.
- Amendments have also been made to the bus plan to accommodate Exeter College students, and details of the plan are being circulated to students by the College. South Devon College have been approached, they are happy with the plan and asked for no specific changes for their students.
- We were also asked to pick up an issue with bus safety and seat belts. Not all buses have seatbelts. Where they do we have reminded our contractors to alert customers and ask them to wear them.
We have introduced a 25% discount on all rail fares for journeys through the Dawlish area. This is being extended to season ticket holders who will be contacted directly. We are also providing full refunds for anyone who has chosen not to travel in the last few weeks as a result of disruption to services, and any unused ticket bought before 18 February can be used on any service until 21 February. In addition, as we now have a committed timeframe for the re-opening of the line we will be able to open ticket bookings for Easter and this will happen shortly.
18th February 2014: Government announcements of support for BusinessesFollowing the recent floods the government has announced a range of support on offer.
A new Business Support Scheme: The scheme is worth up to £10million to provide hardship funding for SME businesses in areas affected by the floods. Both businesses that have been flooded, and businesses that are in affected areas and have suffered significant loss of trade, will be able to apply for support. Eligible businesses will be able to claim for funding for things like immediate clean-up costs, materials, and exceptional costs to help them continue trading.
Extra time for businesses to file accounts without any penalties If any affected company is unable to file accounts or other documents on time as a direct result of the floods, Companies House will agree an extension and not collect the penalties which apply for late filings
A Government Business Support Helpline:
The Helpline is providing comprehensive advice and support to businesses affected by floods. It will offer a free 1 hour call with a dedicated Business Support Adviser to help businesses get back on their feet. The helpline number is 0300 456 3565 and can take calls from flood affected businesses now Read the release in full here. New measures to help communities hit by flooding
- A £5,000 'repair and renew' grant for all affected homeowners and businesses - this will top up any money received from insurers to ensure flood resilience is built into homes and businesses as they are repaired.
- All affected businesses will get 100% business rate relief for 3 months and will also get an extra 3 months to pay the business taxes they owe to HMRC as they get back on their feet
- A £10 million fund for farmers suffering water-logged fields to help restore it to farmable land as quickly as possible.
- A total commitment in excess of £750 million from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers affected by the floods
17th February 2014: Update from Network Rail: Dawlish restoration update
The railway line at Dawlish suffered further heavy damage over the weekend. Our shipping containers held up well but more of the sea wall has been destroyed. We are assessing the impact on the project and we hope to have revised timescales by Wednesday. However, work continues at Dawlish and is progressing with engineers now starting to lay concrete foundation into the breach and repairing the station platform. More work will be required to clear additional debris on the line, repair a lesser secondary breach near Dawlish Warren and boost the strength of the temporary breakwater with four more steel containers. Patrick Hallgate, route managing director, Network Rail Western said: “Our engineers have been working tirelessly since the incident but the weather condition has made the task extremely challenging. The most recent storm has unfortunately hampered our work and we are reviewing our plans to repair the recent damage. We remain undeterred to complete the task at hand and will continue to work towards resuming services as quickly as possible.” The public can now view the progress of the restoration work at Dawlish via a live web link available http://www.networkrail.co.uk/Dawlish/ Over the next few days, engineers will be focusing their work on:
- clearing debris throughout the coastal route
- prepare to place four more steel containers seaward side of the main breach
- pump water from main breach site to repaper the ground for more concrete pour
- prepare second breach area for concrete pour later today
- repair station platform
- repair sea wall between Dawlish Station and tunnel.
17th February 2014: Message from John Longworth, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce
Dear colleagues As we struggle through one of the toughest winters in recent memory, our thoughts are with Chamber members experiencing flooding-related difficulties, and with all businesses whose trading and custom has been affected due to recent disruption. The BCC team has been working closely with many Chambers in affected areas, and Adam Marshall has been transmitting Chamber concerns and proposals for action directly to the Prime Minister’s advisers in Downing Street. We stand ready to continue to assist any accredited Chamber that requires our help in this regard, and we are very aware of the fact that it is often some time after weather-related events – when the television cameras and breaking news bulletins have ceased – that assistance is most needed.
See Flooding advice for Businesses here.
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