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Fears that Thames Valley electrification falling behind schedule

Evidence is building that work to electrify the railways in the Thames Valley is behind schedule, and Network Rail managers have warned that the project is “subject to change”. 

Despite the public statements that electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) is “progressing well”, the programme has suffered because of issues with structures, buried cables, piling and the worse-than-expected performance of the new ‘factory train’ delivering the electrification works. 

The DfT target is for electrification to be completed between Oxford, Newbury, Chippenham and Bristol Parkway in time for the December 2016 timetable change; and from Chippenham to Bristol Temple Meads and from Bristol Temple Meads to Cardiff via Bristol Parkway by December 2017. 

As part of the programme, overhead wires are being fitted between London and Bristol so that Hitachi’s 800 Super Express Train (SETs) cars can run on the line. The trains are expected to enter into passenger service in 2017. 

Victoria Bradley, a spokeswoman for Network Rail, said that the project is a major investment in improving the railway in the region. 

“While work is progressing well and we’re aiming for an end of 2016 target for the Thames Valley, the programme is subject to change and alteration as the scope and needs of the overall project also change,” she added. 

Network Rail’s recently-updated CP5 Enhancements Delivery Plan explains: “It should be noted that an efficient profiling workstream is considering all electrification projects and the outcome of this workstream may result in reprofiling the delivery dates of some electrification projects.” 

The update also noted: “GRIP 3 (single option selection) missed for Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway to Cardiff Central. The new date is subject to change until the programme has been re-examined, revised and communicated to the stakeholders. It is acknowledged that this section of the main line includes relatively complex locations that require further and greater study to deliver the best whole-life cost solution. This is supported by the client. The locations agreed in this category – and required to complete GRIP 3 Single Option Selection and fully signed-off Integrated AiP – is limited to Bristol Temple Meads Station and Bristol Parkway Station.” 

Great Western Electrification is not included on Network Rail’s ‘progress and costs of high profile projects’ report. 

On top of the potential delay fears, Network Rail admits that “costs have risen” on the GWML electrification programme. 

Last year, RTM reported that Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne told the DfT that costs had swollen to £1.5bn, far beyond the original £600m estimate, the £874m predicted in the Strategic Business Plan, or the more recent £1bn estimate. 

There is some hope, though, as a First Great Western spokesman added that while “we would expect minor changes to timescales at this stage in such a big project, we are not aware of any problems that will affect implementation dates”. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email 


Lutz   27/02/2015 at 17:53

Why are people not being fired?

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