Commuters are facing a reduced timetable on the railways as a new week gets underway due to issues caused by the August heatwave.

From today (September 5) the West of England Line, which runs from London Waterloo to Exeter in Devon via Salisbury, Yeovil Junction, parts of north Dorset and Axminster, will be operating the revised itinerary and customers are being urged to check their journey before travelling.

South Western Railway says the changes will enable a ‘resilient service’ to operate after an Emergency Speed Restriction was put in place between Gillingham in Dorset and Tisbury in Wiltshire by Network Rail engineers.

The extremely hot and dry weather experienced recently has caused the clay embankments to dry out and shrink - leaving the track on top uneven and trains unable to travel at full speed.

Train services have had to be amended as the line is single track – meaning trains can’t pass each other outside of passing loops – and trains are taking approximately twice the normal length of time to run between Gillingham and Tisbury.

SWR managing director, Claire Mann, said: “After two weeks of delays and short-notice changes to our services, this decision to introduce a revised timetable will allow us to run a resilient service and at least provide certainty to our customers in the West of England.

“I am sorry to all those whose journeys will be affected as we wait for weather conditions to improve so Network Rail can safely remove the speed restriction.”

The following changes have been put in place:

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

West of England Line reduced timetable - when will it end?

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: A passenger waits to board a South Western Railway train service. Picture: PAA passenger waits to board a South Western Railway train service. Picture: PA

It is likely that the timetable will remain in operation until at least 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.

Network Rail’s Wessex route director, Mark Killick, added: “We’re sorry for the disruption that our customers are seeing between Salisbury and Yeovil Junction, which is a direct result of the hot and dry conditions.

“We hope the amended timetable can give our customers confidence, but we do recognise that the reduced number of services and longer journey times will be disruptive.

“As soon as it is safe to remove the speed restriction, we will do so, but this may not be until October when we hope conditions will improve.”

For more information, visit the South Western Railway website.