The first electric-only train to operate to and from South Wales has successfully been run by Great Western Railway (GWR).
The operator did a test run from Swindon to Cardiff in the early hours of Saturday (June 31st) using a 12-car Class 387 electric-only train.
The train has over 700 seats and GWR’s goal is to run them alongside its Intercity Express Trains to meet demand to and from Cardiff for major events like the Six Nations Rugby Championship.
GWR Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, said “this is a long-term ambition, to help provide additional capacity when ‘big-ticket’ items in the city require it.”
He added, “the pandemic has obviously slowed the need for such services, but we have been working closely with our colleagues at Network Rail to be able to fulfil this ambition.”
The Director continued, “our IET fleet has always been capable of coping with the majority of demand on the Cardiff to London corridor for these events, the benefit of using 387s is that we can provide more seats without having to reduce IET services elsewhere to provide them.”
Expectations are that by growing the number of passengers on trains, it provides a major opportunity to reach the Government’s legal commitment of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
GWR ran electric trains in and out of South Wales for the first time in January last year, with its IET fleet switching to diesel to pass through the Severn Tunnel, before electrification of that section was completed in June 2020.
Since Network Rail electrified the Severn Tunnel last summer, it is the first time an Electrostar has passed into Wales.
Network Rail’s Wales and Border Route Director, Bill Kelly, said “delivering electrification through the Severn Tunnel last year was a huge achievement for Network Rail and has resulted in thousands of extra seats, more frequent services and quicker and greener journeys for passengers as they travel to and from South Wales.”
He added, “it is great to see GWR has moved another step closer in providing an additional, all-electric passenger service for large-scale events in Cardiff off the back of our electrification work.”
Plans are to eventually remove all diesel-only traction from the network by 2040 as GWR work towards reducing carbon emissions of its train fleet as part of the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan.