New faster trains mean quicker trips from London to the South West

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Great Western Railway (GWR) will unveil its new faster service between London Paddington and Bristol on December 16, cutting the journey time between the two cities to as little as 68 minutes.

The improved service is down to a combination of new Hitachi Intercity Express Trains (IETs), which GWR has been rolling out since 2017, and a radical shake-up of its timetable – the first overhaul since 1976. It all adds up to faster journeys and more frequent services to key stations (meaning more seats).

Infrastructure improvements on the line over the past four years have also played a part. Mike Gallop, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “It follows unprecedented investment in electrification, improved signalling, upgraded stations and much more which, together with the introduction of new trains, will transform rail travel.”

Those travelling to or from Bristol will not be the only ones to benefit – journey times to other stations on the route, including Bath Spa, Chippenham, Swindon and Reading, will also be reduced. 

From London to Bristol Temple Meads, the shortest journey time will fall by almost 20 minutes to just one hour and 19 minutes; to get from Paddington to Bristol Parkway will take just 68 minutes.

The journey from London to Bath will be cut to as little as one hour 11 minutes. Beyond Bristol, the new service will also see quicker trips to South Wales, Hereford, Devon and Cornwall.

Tim Bowles, the West of England Mayor, applauded the environmental benefits associated with the new service. “This is great news for the West of England and will help people switch from cars to public transport, reducing congestion and improving the air we breathe,” he said.

Could the trains go even faster in the future? Alas, no. They must keep to a speed limit of 125mph, which puts it some way off Japan’s bullet trains, which hit 224mph, and Italy’s Frecciarossa (Red Arrow), capable of 220mph. Gallop explained: “We are operating a modern service on a Victorian railway system. Our tracks are multi-use. Passengers in other countries don not share the line with vehicles hauling stone from the Mendips.” It’s also a matter of the short distance betweens stations. “We are a long distance commuter service, rather than an inter-city service,” said a GWR spokesman.

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