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Severn Tunnel gears up for ‘iconic’ six-week electrification work

Network Rail engineers are gearing up for a six-week closure of the 130-year-old Severn Tunnel from Monday (12 September) in order to prepare it for electrification.

During the closure, 200 engineers will work “day and night” in the tunnel to install over eight miles of electrical equipment, which will be used to power a brand new fleet of trains.

This comes after around 3,500 hours of preparatory work already completed ahead of the closure, including removing 40 tonnes of soot that had built up in the tunnel, inspecting brick work, removing four miles of redundant cable, drilling over 12,000 holes using a custom-made drilling rig, and installing over 6,000 cable cleats.

In the latest edition of RTM, Brian Paynter and Daniel De Luca, Network Rail’s head of programme, planning and integration and project manager, respectively, went into greater detail about this preparatory work in an exclusive interview just shortly before a piece of enabling work carried out during the August bank holiday.

Great Western Railway’s (GWR’s) development manager for Wales, Mark Youngman, said today that electrifying the tunnel plays a “vital part” in modernising the railway between South Wales and the capital.

Andy Thomas, route managing director for Network Rail Wales, also called the project “iconic” and said it marks a “major milestone in the delivery of electric trains to Cardiff by 2019”.

Thomas continued: “There are significant long-term benefits including faster, greener, more frequent trains as well as boosting economic growth in South Wales thanks to better connectivity to and from London, a critical factor for attracting inward investment.

“Wales is open to passengers and freight traffic during this essential upgrade but we are urging people to plan their journey ahead.”

GWR has been working closely with Network Rail and councils in Wales and along the affected route to ensure minimum disruption to the network.


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Andrew Gwilt   09/09/2016 at 15:04

Its amazing on how you can electrify the railway line through the tunnels with new overhead equipment and 25kv overhead conductor bars to be installed as the 25kv overhead conductor bars is equivalent to 25kv overhead wires that have been erected in tunnels on the WCML & ECML and other main lines.

Noam Bleicher   10/09/2016 at 09:31

I'm no engineer Andrew, but my guess it's easier to keep rigid bars in place than a system of cables in constant tension. Maybe the conductor bar system will require less maintenance, hence fewer possessions for maintenance in a difficult working environment?

Simhedges   10/09/2016 at 11:12

I guess there's less flex in a bar, so less clearance is required.

Andrew Gwilt   11/09/2016 at 23:07

Well it's a new way to electrify the railway lines by installing new overhead conductor bars and rigid bars as a equivalent to installing overhead support and overhead wires.

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