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Published on : Friday, August 5, 2016
Rail passengers are being reminded to plan their journeys before travelling, ahead of a six-week closure of the Severn Tunnel to prepare the Great Western Mainline for a brand new fleet of electric trains.On 12 September the 130 year-old tunnel will close to trains for six weeks as Network Rail’s orange army work day and night to install over eight miles of electrical equipment which will power a new fleet of electric trains in the future – delivering more seats, more frequent services, and faster and greener journeys.
From Monday, 12 September to Friday, 21 October GWR high-speed train services will be diverted between Swindon and Newport increasing journey times by approximately 30 minutes.
GWR Development Manager, Wales, Mark Youngman said: “The electrification of the Severn Tunnel is a vital part in the modernisation of the railway between South Wales and London; and once complete will enable us to deliver more frequent services, more seats, and to reduce journey times into London by as much as 20 minutes from Swansea.
“We have been working closely with Network Rail and local authorities in Wales and along the route to make sure that we keep customers on trains wherever possible and provide the quickest, most convenient journey to their destination, minimizing disruption as best we can.”
The tunnel upgrade marks a major milestone in delivering electric trains for passengers in South Wales and is part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better railway for passengers.
Dan Tipper, area director for Network Rail Wales, said: “Wales is open to passengers and freight traffic during the upgrade work but we are urging people to plan their journey ahead.
“While this iconic project will result in short-term disruption, there are significant long-term benefits which will come as a result of electrifying the railway to Cardiff by 2019 including faster, more frequent trains and a boost to economic growth in South Wales thanks to better connectivity to and from London, a critical factor for attracting inward investment.
“Without a solid six-week closure, it would take engineers up to five years to complete the upgrade, causing long-term disruption for passengers and delaying electrification until 2021.“We would like to thank passengers for their understanding and patience as we complete this essential upgrade.”
The scale of the engineering challenge involved and the extensive amount of machinery required to complete the essential upgrade work of the four mile long tunnel means that the closure is unavoidable and Network Rail is working with Great Western Railway to minimize disruption for passengers.
Ahead of the closure a significant amount of preparation work has already been completed with forty tonnes of soot removed from the tunnel, repairs to brick work and the installation of cable cleats.