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SWR train Gillingham railAfter two months of fewer trains – and reduced speeds – services on the West of England line return to normal between Salisbury and Exeter St Davids via Gillingham today, Monday November 14.

Speed restrictions of 40mph had been in place near Tisbury, Gillingham and Axminster, as the clay-based track bed shrank in the record-breaking hot and dry summer, leaving the rails uneven and too bumpy for trains to run at full speed.

Diligent work by engineers has restored track levels, helped by cooler temperatures and regular rain which has stopped the track bed shrinking, allowing the speed restrictions to be lifted today.

To welcome customers back to the full timetable, and to thank them for their patience as the line was repaired, SWR is offering free £5 vouchers to use at most catering establishments along the line, valid until Wednesday 23 November.

Opening hours for participating outlets vary, so customers wishing to use their free vouchers are urged to check the further details provided in the explanatory leaflet which will be available to collect with vouchers.

In addition, SWR has also secured 100 free taster minutes to use on Co-bikes’ electric bikes in the Exeter area. E-bikes are currently available to hire at Cranbrook, Pinhoe, Exeter Central and Exeter St Davids stations as well as Exeter St Thomas.

To claim the free taster minutes, customers should head to the Co-bikes website here, or they can scan the QR code in the leaflet. The offer ends on Wednesday 30 November.

Network Rail has kindly contributed some of the funding to this offer for customers.

SWR colleagues will be distributing the welcome back vouchers to access these offers, as well as free bottled water and juices, on selected trains between Salisbury and Exeter on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week.

They will be available at many of the stations between Tisbury and Honiton on these days to hand out the vouchers and answer any queries from customers.

Claire Mann, Managing Director, South Western Railway said: ‘We’re delighted to bring back a full timetable to the West of England today, providing the quality services that our customers deserve.

‘I am sorry to all those customers whose journeys were affected as we waited for weather conditions to improve to enable Network Rail to safely remove the speed restrictions.

‘As a token of our appreciation for our customers’ patience over the past couple of months, we are pleased to provide these free welcome back offers, and we hope that customers will use them to try out the great food and drink and e-bikes in the area.’

In a separate project, SWR customers who use the West of England line are reminded that engineers will return to the area to renew track and improve reliability between Saturday 10 and Sunday 18 December.

During this nine-day period, rail replacement buses will serve Tisbury, Gillingham (Dorset), Templecombe and Sherborne. Customers are advised to check train times carefully as they may be different to normal and may require a change of trains.

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