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Author Topic: Increased capacity ??  (Read 1326 times)
Clan Line
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« on: June 12, 2018, 10:22:54 pm »

As a new member of the Coffee Shop I would like to ask if anyone can throw any meaningful light on what future plans there are for the rolling stock on the Cardiff to Portsmouth route - and its side shoots.
I have read that the existing 158s are going to replaced with "new" rolling stock with "increased capacity". I have sampled the replacement stock and am completely underwhelmed with it.

In the last two weeks I have traveled on both a 158 and a 166. The 158 had just been refurbished and did look very, very nice internally - even seemed to have a tiny bit more legroom in the airline seating. Could't really fault it in any way, even had a catering trolley. However, these nice shiny trains seem to be vanishing at an increasing rate (to the West ??) and more and more 150s are appearing on this route.

The 166 looked shabby and well worn internally, with 5 abreast seats (more capacity)!!!, hopper windows were open, so no air-con. I gather that we will end up with a 166 coupled to a 165 - very clever, no through corridor. How does the trolley get through ? I can hear it now.....not economic to have a trolley in each half, not enough crew - remove the catering facilities ! The only "plus" point on the 166 was, the engine noise did seem to be less than on the 158.
On the return leg on the 166 I sat (alone) in the declassified First Class (4 abreast) - now, if the whole trains were refurbished to something approaching this standard !!!!!! I fear not though.

What is happening now, appears to be along the lines of the shambles we had when First took over this route from Wessex/Alpha trains.
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2018, 11:08:05 pm »

As a new member of the Coffee Shop I would like to ask if anyone can throw any meaningful light on what future plans there are for the rolling stock on the Cardiff to Portsmouth route - and its side shoots.

Welcome to the forum.   Let me see if I can summarise ....

The current fleet of call 158 trains and the class 150 units on the Cardiff - Portsmouth line and most other services run from the depot at St. Phillps Marsh in Bristol are being transferred to Exeter, and being replaced by class 166 and class 165 units from the Thames Valley. These trains are a year or two newER than the class 158 units, and about 7 years newer than the 150.  However, they have not been refurbished.  It is intended to run Cardiff to Portsmouth services routinely as 5 carriages rather than 3, and together with the 3+2 seating this will give a massive increase in capacity.

A new direct award (2019 to 2020) has been made to First group to continue tunning GWR, and they are currently awaiting an invitation to tender from the Department for Transport to see what the government will probably ask them to run from 2020 to 2022, with an option on to 2034, and indeed in a following franchise.   A consultation on what's wanted (by the public) closed in February but as yet the outcome, and what the government asks for, is not know.

[Part 2 to follow]

Coffee Shop Admin, Vice Chair of Melksham Rail User Group, on the board of TravelWatch SouthWest and of RailFuture
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2018, 11:21:24 pm »

[part 2 - the unknown bit]

I could be that the 5 car turbos are simply left running until 2022 or 2024 as they are at present, or it could be that they are refurbished.    And at some point there will be something between a probability and a possibility that they in turn will be replaced by other trains - they could be new build (perhaps in a build queue behind new equipment for East Anglia, Northern, and Wales) of they could be further "cascades" such as the class 175 that the new Welsh franchise is releasing, or indeed something like class 170 if Cross Country replace them in the next franchise there, or perhaps even Voyagers if the new Cross Country franchise takes longer and more modern trains such as IET / Azuma run ons. There has also been talk of class 769, running 3rd rail at one end of their journey, overhead at the other end, and diesel in between.

There are indeed questions about the suitability of class 165 and 166 for the Cardiff - Portsmouth services, with the 3+2 seating and the lack of a through corridor.

A concern you did not raise is timetabling.  From 2nd January 2019, timetable are due to be redrawn right across the South West, to make best use of the improved performance envelope of the IET over the HST.   This will mean faster journeys from London to Plymouth, for example - and good news for places like Pewsey which will be 20 minutes after into London.   However, East - West trains through Westbury will land differently and with the limited platform availability there, I have serious concerns that connections that people use at present will no longer be connections.  Of course, not everything can connect but  see some evidence in draft timetables that traffic that has grown because some connections are currently good will be significantly damaged.   With class 165 and 166 also having a better performance envelope there may also be room for some schedule improvement on Cardiff - Portsmouth, though knitting the services through all the main lines crossed, and maintaining other connections, will be hard.

A matter of personal opinion - the 165 / 166 units in the Bristol area will be good for runs that are perhaps 45 minutes to an hour with stops perhaps 3 to 12 miles apart.  So that's Bristol to Westbury locals, Swindon to Cheltenham locals (except they are going mostly IET), local services between Bristol and Weston and their extensions north and south, and the Swindon to Westbury service - though when that latter extends to Southampton they become less idea.    Straggly lines up to Great Malvern and down to Weymouth are much less good turbo (165 / 166) territory. And the line from Bristol Temple Meads to St Andrew's Road has its stops too close for them to be ideal - the final let to Severn Beach being the only section of a decent distance between stations.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 11:28:06 pm by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2018, 11:17:38 am »

As a side issue, SWR are going to be running an additional fast service from Portsmouth to Southampton from December, and in theory this should take up a lot of the passengers who presently go for the GWR service as it is the fastest on that part of the overall route corridor.  Hopefully it means that there won't be the same 'churn' of passengers at Southampton Central as there is now...

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