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First stages of South Wales electrification set to start

Network Rail is set to begin major preparation work in the run up to electrifying the South Wales Main Line.

GRIP 3 completion – the selection of a single option – is due by next month, and the DfT target is for electrification to be completed for electric train operation from Cardiff to Swansea to deliver the May 2018 timetable. Network Rail has not yet published a specific commissioning date.

Network Rail has been informing lineside neighbours about the “extensive construction programme” that is about to begin in Monmouthshire, as structures are raised or demolished and rebuilt to allow for OLE to be installed.

Work will move from east to west, with the structure changes and vegetation clearance expected to be completed in 2016. Piling work will then begin to install the foundations for the OLE.

Another important enabler of the works is the £36m Port Talbot West Phase 1 resignalling programme, and associated £3m of track remodelling work.

Graeme Tandy, route delivery director for Network Rail, said: “Electrification will transform the railway between London and South Wales to make journeys faster, more reliable, greener and quieter for passengers. It will also help support economic growth across South Wales.

“In order to reap the benefits of an electrified railway, an extensive construction programme is first required, including work to prepare the line for overhead lines. This will begin in Monmouthshire shortly and will include work to a number of existing bridges that are too low to accommodate the new infrastructure. We try to avoid reconstructing bridges where possible, but at some locations it is the only feasible option, particularly if a bridge is in poor condition. Once this work is completed the reconstructed bridges won’t need to be replaced for more than 100 years.”

The first bridges identified as requiring reconstruction are two footbridges near Magor. Work to replace Undy Halt footbridge, in the village of Undy, and Whitewall footbridge, which connects Whitewall Road to Magor village centre, is expected to begin in June and be completed by autumn.

The public footpaths over the current footbridges will be temporarily closed whilst the existing structures are removed and replaced with new footbridges. The project is being planned so that work is staggered to eliminate the chances of neighbouring bridges being closed at the same time.

The project is being delivered by the Great Western Electrification programme team, according to Network Rail's CP5 Enhancements Delivery Plan.

The wider Cardiff Valleys network (Ebbw Vale, Rhymney, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, Treherbert, Maesteg, Penarth, Barry Island and Bridgend via Vale of Glamorgan) will be electrified in early CP6, which starts in 2019.

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