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of the Friends of Bruton Railway Station

Changing of the Guard Kenneth Thom, a founder member of the Friends of the Station in 1997, was our Chairman from 2002 until his retirement in November 2018. He steered our group through many changes over this time, from Wessex Trains to First Great Western, then Great Western Railway, and more recently the arrival of South West Trains, now South Western Railway. Kenneth chaired a notable town meeting in 2015 at which South West Trains presented their plans for a pioneering service from Waterloo to Bruton and Yeovil. He and Patience established the standards for our plantings of the station garden over the years, with the colourful planter pots on both platforms helping us to come second in the ‘Small Stations’ class nationally in 2014, next after Leamington Spa. Nick Scott, our Secretary ever since joining in 2002, retired from that position at the same time as Kenneth, but continues as Treasurer and as our unofficial contact with the managements of GWR and SWR, as well as maintaining our website which he initiated in 2007.

     Our new Chairman is Howard Smith, who joined us in 2010, for many years our most active volunteer, and all this time a keen member of the Community Rail Working Party - also ready to help at any other station up or down the line wherever extra help was needed. The Secretary’s job is now shared by Gail Couzens (joined 2012), whose husband Charles was another of the founders of the group in 1997, and Louise Holgate (2016). Louise and Gail are expert gardeners and have been notable for their enthusiastic care of the station. We wish our new Committee every success in their endeavours.

    We are sad to record that our wonderful Rail Partnership Officer, Catherine Phillips, who took up that post in 2003, has not been able to take much part in the work of the Partnership since a terrible accident on duty in 2016. Catherine was with us for the rebuilding of Bruton Station in 2003, the formation over the years of station support groups for every station up and down the line from Freshford, just this side of Bath, to Upwey near Weymouth and was always the driving force behind the quarterly meetings of the Community Rail Working Party which was able to exercise real influence to get signicant improvements from the train companies on our behalf.

     Train Services Our Waterloo service, which we welcomed with a band and civic pomp in November 2015, has not developed further in all this  time. We contributed to a large-scale consultation on a new timetable when South Western Railway took over the service in 2017 and were delighted when they announced they would run four up trains and three down ones every weekday from this January. They have since explained that the Secretary of State has not allowed then to make those planned timetable changes; we just hope they will be free to do so  with the summer timetables in May. In much the same way we contributed to a consultation about Great Western Railway timetables, laying especial stress on securing more express trains stopping at Castle Cary. Again perhaps the ministerial ban stopped this happening for the January 2019 timetables but we just hope to see real improvements in May. GWR have given us better train sets in the faster but not very new 166 class of 3-car local trains on the Bristol-Weymouth service. The fast and comfortable HSTs on main line services from Castle Cary are being replaced with the Hitachi Intercity Express Trains (IETs for short), designed as electric trains but operating on our line under diesel engines added to them and making them slower to accelerate; there are mixed reports on their performance and comfort.

Closure of Whiteball Tunnel This tunnel, just beyond Wellington, will be closed for major repairs from 18 February to 8 March, and no trains from Castle Cary will go to Taunton or Tiverton Junction, instead going round by Yeovil and Honiton to Exeter St Davids, with some adjustment of timetables.

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