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First wires go up on GWML, but programme uncertainties remain

Network Rail engineers installed the first overhead wires for the Great Western Main Line electrification programme (GWEP) last week.

One mile (1.6km) of earth wire went up on the lines west of Reading between Pangbourne and Tilehurst – part of the track that will serve as a test section for the new Class 800 InterCity Express Programme (IEP) trains.

This is also the first section of the newly-designed overhead line to be erected on the operational railway and the first overhead line anywhere on the route beyond the existing wires at Airport Junction in Stockley, west London.

According to Network Rail, the first 1,000m of wire were installed in only 35 minutes.

Its senior programme manager, Sinan Al-Jawad, said: “This is a great milestone in this vital project to improve the line for passengers. Electric trains are quieter, cleaner and faster and will offer more seats and better journeys for everyone. I would like to thank all those who were engaged in getting the first wire up.”

Noel Dolphin from Furrer+Frey, the company that designed the new Series 1 OLE for Network Rail, also tweeted this today:

Installation of overhead electrification wiring 1

But despite the progress in GWEP, substantial doubts are still clouding the programme, with the ORR saying that Network Rail’s new estimate of its cost – which has nearly doubled since last year, and trebled since initial forecasts in 2012 – should not be accepted until independently verified.

In written evidence submitted to the Public Accounts Committee, the ORR said it is not possible to tell what exactly the new cost range estimate, £2.5bn to £2.8bn, actually covers.

And Network Rail and the Department for Transport are still in discussions as to whether timescales for the electrification programme should be delayed.

Chris Wilson, project engineering manager on the route’s modernisation programme, said Network Rail is working with the department to agree “achievable timescales” that tie up with the IEP programme and the subsequent AT300 project.

It is hoped that the programme’s fate will be clarified in the upcoming CP5 review by Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy, due imminently.


Warrena   17/11/2015 at 12:57

35 minutes good for a single 1000 metre of catenary conductor (support registrations already in situ). Let's us know how long for a full tension length, catenary, contact, supporting droppers, fully tensioned, registered to compliant parameters and fit for purpose.

C Miller   26/11/2015 at 12:54

where is the rest of the electrification train. The wiring truck do not seem to be part of the electrification that was bought specifically to be used on the GWML modernising. The only part of the electrification train that they are using are the hammers and piling trucks. No wonder everything is delayed. You will most probably find the rest of the train in Scotland.

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