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The Severn Tunnel Action Group (STAG) was formed in the winter of 2006 in response to the intended cuts in rail services including the loss of five of the six morning commuter services to Bristol and Bath and half the return services. Over a hundred commuters found there was no public transport to get to work.

Following re-instatement of the majority of the commuting trains, STAG is working with the Rail industry to develop the services and facilities, in particular the re-instatement of the trains that provide connection and integration between the Bristol and Chepstow - Gloucester line services.

Extra carriages on 0755 not always being provided

First's response when we challenged them

The delivery of planned capacity within our West fleet was not where any of us would consider acceptable in the weeks either side of Christmas.  

In any four week period we normally deliver 96% of peak services to/from Bristol in their correct formation.  In the four weeks ending 7th January we only achieved 88%.

There were a number of unconnected events which led to a prolonged period of poor unit availability, including:- A two-car unit running over debris from a freight train in Severn Tunnel on 30th November which then sustained severe wheel flats as a result of an emergency brake application.  

This necessitated fitment of replacement wheelsets which, being because of them being an unplanned requirement on top of usual industry demand, our supplier was not able to deliver for several weeks.  

A two-car unit derailed at Westbury during a empty shunting movement on 6th December which caused some damage to under-frame equipment and this unit remains out of service.

The last of our two-car units arriving from London Midland did not arrive until 13th December, some two weeks later than envisaged.  This unit has only just been placed into service as a result of being found to require a number of repairs in addition to our normal commissioning work.

The short-formings which you identify on 19th December, 30th December and 4th January all occurred when we were two or three units short for service start-up.  

In such situations there is a difficult juggling act required on the part of our Control to try and ensure that overall customer impact is minimised.  

As a general principle we will try and avoid short-forming the most heavily loaded services - I suspect any migration onto the 07.30 Cardiff - Portsmouth since the strengthening in the December timetable has not yet fed through into the loading data which we use to make such decisions - as well as avoiding short-forming of the same train on successive days.

In the last week or so we have seen an improvement in our overall West fleet availability and are now back at the levels which we expect (and indeed normally achieve).  The most recent short-form on Friday 13th January was as a result of a last minute train failure at Bristol Temple Meads which, in order to avoid the cancellation of another service, resulted in the two-car unit which normally strengthens the 07.30 Cardiff - Portsmouth being re-deployed.  

It is worth noting that the technical performance of the West fleet continues to improve and is currently showing over a 20% reduction in both delays and cancellations year-on-year.

I note your comments about revenue protection which I am sure Steve Tyler will be following up.


Andy Mellors| Engineering Director | First Great Western


Notice to Commuters

Dated 10th November 2011

Re-franchise of the Greater Western franchise

STAG have today been provided with reassurances regarding the future of the First Great Western train service. This has been provided by the Department for Transport (DfT).

In drawing up the franchise specification for the future of the service the DfT say they will specify the current timetable with all the current stopping patterns. This is the service currently provided by First Great Western Trains, from Severn Tunnel Junction.

We anticipate that the above reassurance will mean we don't return to the chaos of a few years ago, however, we will continue to monitor the situation.

In recent weeks our local MP, a few local AMs, and some other influential persons have all written to the DfT seeking the reassurance that services would not be cut when the franchise agreement was specified. STAG are extremely grateful for this support.

We had, of course, hoped for a better level of service commitment with more of the Portsmouth Harbour trains stopping. STAG will continue to lobby for this, and will also continue to fight for other improvements to the station, a bigger car park. and for a more regular Arriva Trains Wales service to Lydney and Chepstow.


David Flint: Chair STAG


From 21st November 2011, Grass Routes Community Transport Bus
will begin the operation of the early morning and evening rail link journeys at Severn Tunnel Junction in Magor.

*please click "here" of more information


Letter from the Minister of State The Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP

It may also be the case that the new franchise contract will mandate a similar number of calls as at present.

Decisions on these questions and the overall configuration of services are still some way off.

Please rest assured that I and my officials will take your views very seriously as we approach the re-franchising process.

There will be also be a full public consultation next year seeking views on the contents of the next Great Western franchise. I hope you and your constituents will consider taking part in this process.

I look forward to continued engagement with you on this important matter. Thank you again for your input.

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005
From the Minister of State The Rt. Hon. Theresa Vi/liers MP
Jessica Morden MP House of Commons LONDON SW1AOAA

Department for
Great Minster House 76 Marsham Street London SW1 P 4DR
Tel: 020 7944 3082 Fax: 020 7944 4492
E-Mail: theresa.villiers@dft.gsLgov.uk
Web site: www.dft.gov.uk
Our Ref: MC/11 019
Your ref: DB/FLlN01001/01080072
26 AU6 2011

Dear Jessica
Thank you for your letter of 21 July to the Secretary of State regarding the Great Western franchise and the level of service at Severn Tunnel Junction station. I am responding as Minister responsible for rail.

The Government is committed to taking a more flexible approach to rail franchising which sees more decisions devolved to the professionals running train services, and moved away from Whitehall. We are concerned about the micro-management that characterised much of the approach of the previous Government. Accordingly, we do not intend to specify the provision of services in the same detail as was the case when the current Great Western contract was let.

For example, in relation to West Coast, the first of the franchises to be issued under the new approach, we are proposing to specify a minimum number of calls (both per day and per week) that must be made at each station, leaving the operator with the freedom to decide how best to discharge these obligations. We expect this sort of approach to encourage rail operators to propose viable services that are commercially driven.

Our reform proposals continue to develop and they will be adapted to reflect the needs and characteristics of different franchises. However, it does mean that I am unable to give you the absolute assurance you seek on mandating the continued provision of exactly the same service pattern.

That said, if demand for rail services from Severn Tunnel Junction continues to grow as in recent years, it seems unlikely that the new franchisee would want to reduce the service level.


The changes will be made to the timetable within the
December 2011 timetable period.

"With support from Members of Parliament, local authorities and other key partners we have been in discussions with the Department for Transport for some time about the need for this capacity, and we are delighted these have come to fruition."

In a further statement to STAG, Andy Mellors has confirmed that the 07.55 from Severn Tunnel Junction to Portsmouth Harbour is one of those identified for strengthening (as far as Bristol TM) and when they receive the additional rolling stock later this year.

STAG have asked Andy Mellors to confirm whether or not other services to Severn Tunnel Junction will also be strengthened, and have set out a case for other trains. We currently await a response.

First Great Western welcomes additional carriages for Bristol

First Great Western has today welcomed the Department for Transport's announcement confirming provision of additional train carriages for the Bristol area. The news will see more than 900 additional seats at peak times across the city, and is great news for customers in the area.

First Great Western Deputy Managing Director, Andy Mellors said: "This is great news for our customers in the Bristol Area and a step forward to helping address the capacity issues created by the popularity of our services across the south west.

"With support from Members of Parliament, local authorities and other key partners we have been in discussions with the Department for Transport for some time about the need for this capacity, and we are delighted these have come to fruition."

The changes will be made to the timetable within the December 2011 timetable period.


8,800 extra spaces for busy trains on key routes

Space for up to an extra 8,800 rail passengers is being created on key commuter services in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers announced today.

Under a deal funded by the Government, passengers on Northern Rail are to benefit from an extra 22 train carriages. Separate agreements also deliver an extra six carriages to First Great Western and an additional 4 carriages to London Midland.

Theresa Villiers said:

“I am delighted we have been able to finalise these important deals which will make a real difference to passengers. Even at a time when we are tackling the huge deficit we inherited, we are determined to invest in Britain’s future. That is why we’re committed to a major investment programme in our railways to deliver a big increase in capacity to ease crowding and provide commuters with more comfortable journeys.”

"Today’s good news has been made possible by our plans to introduce 2,700 new rail carriages on to the network by May 2019.

“We are also committed to the completion of the vital Crossrail and Thameslink projects in London and we are investing £900m in rail electrification. In the longer term our plans for a high speed rail network will free up a huge amount of space on our current network for more commuter trains - with some towns potentially seeing a near doubling of services.”

“As well as improving life for passengers, these rail improvements will play an important role in strengthening economic growth.”

The extra carriages, which will be in service from December 2011, are  becoming  available as a result of the planned deployment of 69 new train carriages which are being delivered to London Midland for use in the Birmingham area. This then allows for the carriages currently being used by London Midland to serve passengers using Northern Rail and First Great Western services.




website updated 24th January 2012