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DfT still to decide whether to delay Great Western electrification

Network Rail and the DfT are still in discussions as to whether timescales for the Great Western electrification should be delayed, RTM has learned.

In the same week that Network Rail boss Mark Carne revealed the project's costs have nearly doubled to up to £2.8bn, Chris Wilson, project engineering manager on Great Western Route Modernisation, said Network Rail is working with the Department to agree "achievable timescales" that tie up with the IEP programme and the subsequent AT300 project.

Speaking during a Q&A session at the IET's Railway Electrification seminar today (22 October), Wilson added that when information relating to new timetables is published – the Hendy Review is due in November – that "will be the timescales we're aiming to hit".

"Our lords and masters, when you follow the train up, are the DfT. They are the guys that are putting their hands in their pockets for all this," he said. "The agreement will come down to what the DfT want us to do, because the Department has feet in every camp with the IEP programme, the electrification and with Great Western Railway."

Wilson, who discussed the challenges faced with project engineering a major electrification programme, and the issues with parallel systems development and delivery, added the "decision is, fundamentally, out of our hands".

"They [the DfT] will have to decide whether they want to delay the electrification of the existing access agreements," he said. "If they want to bring the electrification in any earlier, they will have to agree the access with GWR and the impact on the existing contract that they have with Hitachi. It is [in the] ongoing discussions that Network  Rail,  as an organisation, will agree [a timetable] with the DfT."

More from the IET electrification seminar in the next edition of RTM. Rail professionals can subscribe for free here.


Henry Law   23/10/2015 at 18:26

I was one of the two authors of an article which was published in in the Railway Magazine in 1985 proposing that the GW main line should be electrified on the third rail system. We pointed out that the GW is or could be linked to DC electrification systems in London and at Reading, providing the possibility of through running from Reading onto the Metropolitan Line (this was before Crossrail was mooted), and from eg Southampton to Oxford. We also noted that progressive electrification westwards from London could be brought into use as soon as the third rail had reached Ealing. Other benefits would have been that it would not have interfered with architectural features which are the reason why the line is a World Heritage Site, requiring special measures to reduce the visual impact and damage needed to fit in the overhead structures. Although the article was slightly tongue-in-cheek, with the benefit of hindsight it is a pity that nobody in a position to make decisions picked up the idea.

Simhedges   24/10/2015 at 00:21

"The world speed record for a third rail train is 174 km/h (108 mph)" (from Wikipedia). So yes, *very* tongue in cheek.

Southern Electric For All   26/10/2015 at 17:40

The world speed record for surface contact is 174km/h, has anyone tried to improve on this? Some SWD drivers did better with the plastic pigs at times.... Certainly there were some experiments by the Japanese in the late 80's to see what might improve the surface contact system as opposed to the drag of a pantograph together with the inherent problems of pantograph bounce and wire tensioning. Overhead has all sorts of issues - environmentally it is ugle, it requires an all change approach to everything before a train can run and if the wires come down everyone is in chaos. Side contact has few of these issues but has for decades been derided by 'experts' - or those who only see in one direction. Surface contact would even work along the Dawlish Sea Wall - unlike Overheads which will spend more time down than up - especially in the winter, the surface contact atmostpheric system recorded 90+% reliability when in use along the sea wall- overheads won't manage that except on really good days!

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