TRAINS will be replaced by buses next weekend when the railway is closed around Swindon to allow Network Rail to carry out signalling works.

Replacement bus services will run from Swindon to Chippenham, Didcot and Kemble during the 48-hour shut-down over Saturday, November 21, and Sunday, November 22, which will see no trains run through or to Swindon.

During this time Network Rail will be installing and testing a new signalling system which will replace equipment dating from the 1960s and 70s. This, they say, will pave the way for greater reliability and fewer delays for passengers and is necessary for the arrival of the new electric trains expected from 2017.

Paddy Gregg, Network Rail’s signalling project director for the Western and Wales routes, said: “This project forms part of our programme to re-signal the whole of the Great Western route, providing passengers with greater reliability, fewer delays and smoother journeys.

“Our work to increase reliability, together with the ability of the new electric trains to reduce journey times and accommodate more passengers, will also help to drive economic growth across the Thames Valley, west and south west England.”

The work taking place over the weekend of 21 and 22 November is the second stage of the Swindon re-signalling project, which has already seen the installation of more than 700km of signalling and power cables.

Around 250 members of Network Rail’s ‘orange army’ will be working along 80 miles of railway over the weekend, with testing of the new signalling system being carried out before control of the railway moves from the mechanical signal box at Swindon to the state-of-the-art Thames Valley signalling centre in Didcot early next year.

Network Rail said that all signallers who used to work at the Swindon signal box have been moved into other signalling roles, predominantly at the Thames Valley signalling centre.

Paddy said: “Replacing and upgrading 40-year-old signalling equipment is very complex and for safety reasons must be carried out when trains aren’t running.

"I would like to thank passengers in advance for their patience and understanding while we complete this essential upgrade that will lead to greater reliability and fewer delays, and pave the way for the advantages electrification and the new electric trains will bring to both passengers and those who live close to the railway.”

The third and final stages of the Swindon re-signalling project will take place early next year, the details of which will be provided later this year.

All passengers are advised to check travel information before leaving by visiting


To date, the Swindon re-signalling project has included the installation of:

Eight new under-track crossings

Three new under-road crossings

Under-track and under-road crossings are large ducts that allow power, signal and telecoms cables to run from equipment on one side of the track/road to the other.

740km of new signalling and power cables

80km of telecoms cables

165 new signal post telephones, enabling train drivers to contact signallers if needed.

109 new signals