23 July 2009

Electric trains to Wales: Don't get too excited

I promised myself when I started this blog that I would keep away from commenting on all matters rail.  Why?  Because I work in the industry, know a lot and at times need to be careful.  Besides, what I would have to say about Prescott’s and Tom Harris’s performance when they were at the DoT would need a blog all to itself.

However, from time to time a comment is worth making.

Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, has announced the electrification of the line that runs between London and Swansea.  To his credit it is the right policy but will be very problematical to execute.  The eight year programme is very ambitious and in practice not achievable.  There are scores of bridges and tunnels that will have to modified or demolished to accommodate the overhead wires.  There will be countless delays and closures whilst the work proceeds.

However, the barrier to the completion of the project is the Severn Tunnel.  It is old, permanently wet and too small to carry the overhead wires.  The tunnel is in such a state of disrepair that it closed weekly for inspections.  It will have to be extensively re-engineered for any electrification to be installed.  The only way the work can happen in any meaningful way is for the tunnel to be closed for periods, which will not only cause massive delays and no trains to Wales.

In practice, what will happen is the network in the Home Counties will be electrified as a first stage and then the project will get rolled out to Bristol.  After that who knows.  A new tunnel maybe, but nothing has been announced and there is no money.

So, don't get too excited about electrified trains to Wales happening anytime soon.  It will take years and far longer than Adonis said this morning.

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  1. Ah Howard and what about the trains to Scotland?

  2. Because that one is easy. Wait for my next post.