From Monday 5 September, we will be introducing a temporary reduced timetable on the West of England line

Disruption on our West of England Line


Last updated 5 October 2022

We have had to introduce a temporary reduced timetable on the West of England line to allow us to operate a resilient service for our customers, after Emergency Speed Restrictions were put in place between Gillingham in Dorset and Tisbury in Wiltshire by Network Rail engineers.

The extremely hot and dry weather experienced this summer caused the clay embankments to dry out and shrink - leaving the track on top uneven and trains unable to travel at full speed. You can find more information about the causes of this disruption at the bottom of this page.

Our timetabled train services have had to be amended as the affected line is largely single track – meaning trains cannot pass each other outside of passing loops – and services are taking approximately twice the normal length of time to run between Gillingham and Tisbury.

The timetable came into effect on Monday 5 September and is likely to remain in operation until at least the end of October, as engineers must wait for the soil to stop shrinking and regain some of its moisture before repairs can be made and the speed restriction lifted.

The new timetable will be updated on a weekly basis. If you are making a journey enquiry further in advance, please note that the timetable shown is subject to significant change, therefore we would urge customers to check journey planners before they travel.

  • Services will generally run hourly between London Waterloo and Yeovil Junction
  • Services will generally run every two hours between London Waterloo and Exeter St David’s
  • Journey times will be amended and/or extended across most services on the route

Ticket availability

Advanced tickets will be made available later than usual while we await timetable confirmation. The table below is the latest availability:

 Travel date  Tickets available
3 - 7 October Available now
8 October Unavailable - see update below
9 October TBC
 10 - 14 October Available now
 15 - 16 October TBC 
 17 -21 October Available now
 22 - 23 October TBC

Update 4 October Please note, Industrial Action will be taking place on Saturday 8 October and no trains will operate on the West of England line (between Basingstoke and Exeter St Davids) as a result of these strikes. For more information, please visit www.southwesternrailway.com/strike

Advance tickets will only be available for services we know will be running, typically one week in advance. They will not be available for any dates not listed above, until we have more certainty regarding how long this disruption may last. This is because these tickets are tied to specific services and we want to avoid selling tickets for services which will not be running. Once the timetable for a particular day is confirmed and available in our journey planning systems, we are able to make Advance tickets available. We are sorry that this means you will not be able to buy Advance tickets until a few days before a service is due to run.

For more information on Advanced purchase tickets and the availability please visit this page.

What is causing this disruption?

The South of England has endured its driest July since 1936, as well as the hottest temperatures ever recorded, and the impact has now been felt on our railway.

Sections of railway built on clay-based soil, including those around Gillingham, have dried out so badly that they have shrunk, leaving the track on top uneven and dangerous to run trains at full speed.

It is likely that the speed restriction will remain in place until October, as engineers must wait for the soil to regain some of its moisture before a repair can be carried out.

Network Rail has produced a series of Twitter threads and videos explaining the issue in more depth:

Link to Twitter thread 1

Link to Twitter thread 2

Network Rail explain the situation below:


Ticket acceptance, refunds & compensation

  • Tickets are typically made available for online/app purchase for up to a week ahead, services are will not be available for buying tickets beyond this because the timetables will not yet have been confirmed.
  • Journeys for stations between Salisbury and London Waterloo are not impacted by these changes and tickets are available as normal.
  • Customers with pre-booked Advance tickets purchased before the emergency timetable change may travel up to one hour either side of their booked service (or the closest service either side if this is more than one hour) or obtain a fee free refund from the retailer if you choose not to travel.
  • Normal Delay Repay compensation arrangements will apply (against the timetable on the day).
  • Customers with pre-booked Walk-Up tickets (Anytime, Off Peak, Super Off Peak, Evening Out, Sunday Out etc) must travel within the normal time restrictions of their ticket. Customers who purchased a ticket prior to the timetable change being published may obtain a fee free refund from the ticket retailer if you choose not to travel.
  • Although time restrictions will still apply and customers are advised that off-peak products can’t be used during the peak period, there are a number of easements that will apply until 30 Oct for customers boarding at the stations below. Please check online journey planners which have been updated to reflect these arrangements.

FAQs

Why are you reducing your services?
How long will this new timetable be in place?
When will timetables be available online?
What does this mean for the ticket I've already booked?
Will you make sure the remaining trains have sufficient capacity for the demand?
Are you allowing your train tickets to be used on local bus services and are you putting on extra buses west of Yeovil?
Why do the Exeter services have lower frequencies and longer journey times compared to the Yeovil services?
Are GWR still running the 17.48 Monday to Friday service between Exeter St David’s and Axminster?
Are the Axminster – Pinhoe engineering works still go ahead later in September and if so will the bus and train service need to be amended?
Why is my train held at a station for a prolonged amount of time?

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Plans changed? You can amend the date and time fee-free until 30 November 2022

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