The first quarter of 2018 saw many changes to services in the county.
Most noticeable was the botched introduction of class 800 units to the Cotswold line services. Great Western Railway's introduction of these new units and the removal of all class 180s and, as they came off lease, the class 43 HSTs caused dozens of train cancellations reminiscent of the problems caused in 1963/64 by the changeover from steam to diesel and the later replacement of the Hymeks by underpowered class 31 diesel electric locomotives.
The two-hourly south coast to Malvern trains saw all the class 150 units replaced by more powerful class 166s.
Elsewhere the continued decline of freight traffic reduced the daytime photograph possibilities to the Round Oak and Corby to Margam and Daventry to Wentloog trains. All these trains were southbound. No daytime northbound freight trains rans except for nuclear waste trains.
Another feature of the first quarter of 2018 was the very bad weather including many days of rain and, as this photograph shows, deep snow. Photograph taken by Andrew Smith at Great Malvern on 3rd March 2018.
Recent changes to signals operated from the Norton Junction box have been the relocation of signals Nos.8 and 9 as seen by Steve Widdowson in the photographs above which were taken from a passing train on 11th March 2017.
Great Western Railway operated several extra class 43 "Inter-City" High Speed Trains from Paddington to Cheltenham during the Gold Cup meeting in March 2017. One of the HST's was obtained by operating a three-car "Turbo" train on the 11.20 Paddington to Great Malvern and 14.25 return. Three-car class 165/1 diesel multiple unit No.165104 in GWR was photographed by Andrew Smith at Great Malvern.
On 13th May 2016 a stolen road digger was crashed into the railway bridge at Abbotswood. After a lengthy period of closure the road was reopened as a single track with traffic lights. Viewed through the empty space of the unrepaired portion of the bridge, Andrew Smith photographed class 66 diesel locomotive No.66087 on 18th March 2017 with the 09.30 Saturdays only Margam to Tees Yard.
Worcester Shrub Hill lost two semaphore signals over theweekend of 18th and 19th March 2017. SH2 was removed and replaced by one single LED with a calling on indicator whilst TJ6 was left as a post in the ground. Photographs taken by Steve Widdowson.
This photograph of class 66 diesel locomotive No.66107 on the Corby to Margam steel empties is important in showing the growing impact of the impending electrication to Bromsgrove. Photograph taken by Steve Widdowson on 25th March 2017.
On Wednesday 29th June 2017 there was a rare outing through the county for class 50 diesel locomotive No.50008 which took the Rail Grinder unit from Chaddesden, near Derby to Oakhampton in Devon (train code 4Z01). The weather was inclement but both Robert Pritchard (above left) and Steve Widdowson (above right) braved the elements to photograph this unusual working.
A week-long blockade at Oxford brought a few extra trains into the county, one of which saw No.66737 work the 11.56 from Westbury to Stud Farm (train code No.6M40). Robert Pritchard photographed the train at Bredicot on 27th July 2017.
Throughout the summer of 2017 there were many trains taking redundant class 319 electric multiple units for storage. One such train ran on 2nd August 2017 when class 37 diesel locomotive No.37884 took Nos.319001 and 319445 to Long Marston. Steve Widdowson photographed the train at Norton.
On 10th August 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that the London Midland franchise was to end on 10th December 2017 with award of a new franchise to West Midlands Trains Ltd (a joint venture of Abelio, East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd). The new franchise runs until March 2026 with 400 new carriages and a new West Midlands Railway livery on trains and stations. Note that West Midlands Trains Ltd must not be confused with West Midlands Rail Ltd which is a consortium of sixteen local authoritues and is based at Summer Lane in Birmingham.
The photograph, taken by Andrew Smith, shows class 153 single-car railcar No.153366 on Worcester Depot on 8th April 2017.
From the end of August 2017 until the middle of September 2017 the railway line through Bristol Parkway was closed for electrication work. Cross Country Trains ran a service via the Severn Tunnnel and Patchway Station whilst Great Western Railway opted to run its Great Malvern to the south coast sevices to and from Yate. The Great Western Railway services were mostly operated by the former London Midland two-car class 150 diesel multiple units as in this photograph, taken by Andrew Smith on Wednesday 6th September 2017, which shows the empty stock for the 10.48 service (train code No.1T48) from Great Malvern to Yate running to Malvern Wells in order to reverse back to Great Malvern on the 'up' line.
Class 800 units Nos.800010 and 800012 at Norton on a test run from Stoke Gifford to Tiverton via Worcester Shrub Hill. Photographed by Steve Widdowson on Sunday 22nd October 2017.
The 2017 railhead treatment train featured more reliable traction that the previous year. The 2017 trains operated throughout the season with Colas Rail's class 66 diesel locomotives No.66846 and 66848, seen here at Newland on 17th November 2017. Sadly the budget did not run to cleaning the locomotives which got ever more filthy as the season progressed. Photograph taken by Andrew Smith.