In July British transport secretary Lord Andrew Adonis announced plans
for the country's first major electrification project for more than two
decades. Planning will start immediately on the electrification of the
Great Western Main Line (GWML) from London to Bristol, Cardiff and
Swansea, together with the lines from Reading to Newbury, and Didcot to
Oxford. The £1 billion project will be implemented in phases, with the
final section due for completion in 2017, when London - Swansea journey
times will be reduced by 19 minutes.
The project will include
resignalling with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS),
the first application of this technology on a British main line.
electrification of the GWML is being timed to coincide with the
introduction of Britain's new-generation inter-city passenger train,
the Super Express Train (SET), which will be supplied by the Agility
Trains consortium. The 200km/h SETs will be built by Hitachi in
electric, diesel, and bi-mode versions, and a fleet of 70 pre-series
vehicles will be delivered in 2012, with the first production trains
entering service in 2015. The Great Western SET fleet will include a
number of bi-mode trains, which will be used for services from London
to destinations away from the electrified network, such as Cheltenham,
Worcester, and Penzance.
Suburban services from London to Reading,
Newbury, and Oxford will be operated by emus from the end of 2016, when
the delivery of new trains for the Thameslink network will allow
four-car class 319s to be cascaded to the GWML. These emus will be
modernised, with the installation of air-conditioning, before taking up
their new role.
The GWML electrification coincides with the £425
million remodelling of the station at Reading, a major junction where
Cross Country services from the south coast to central England
intersect with Great Western services from London to the southwest and
The 51km Manchester Victoria - Newton le Willows - Liverpool
line, will also be electrified at a cost of £100 million by 2013. This
line currently has a maximum speed of 120km/h, which will be raised to
145km/h when the project is completed, cutting journey times from 44 to
30 minutes.
Electrification of this line will allow the introduction of
new services between Manchester and Scotland via the West Coast Main
Line, using four-car emus, replacing TransPennine dmus which run 85% of
their journey under the wires. Refurbished class 319s will operate
regional services between Liverpool and Manchester. The electrification
of this line is also a major step towards electrifying the key
Newcastle - Leeds - Manchester - Liverpool TransPennine route, which
has witnessed a surge in passenger numbers in recent years.
The last
major electrification project in Britain was the 632km East Coast Main
Line from London to Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh, which was approved
in 1985 and completed in 1990. Currently only 33% of Britain's railway
network is electrified.
Meanwhile, in a separate plan,
infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) has agreed to fund the
electrification of lines linking Scotland's two largest cities. NR will
borrow £1 billion against the value of its own assets to cover the cost
of electrifying the lines from Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk and
Cumbernauld, as well as diversionary routes and the lines to Stirling,
Dunblane and Alloa.
The project will be completed in 2016 and will
reduce Edinburgh - Falkirk - Glasgow journey times from 50 minutes to
35 minutes while allowing the frequency to be increased from four to
six trains per hour. With the reopening of the Airdrie - Bathgate line,
a peak service of 13 trains per hour will be possible by 2016.


NR has revealed its vision of a high-speed line from London to
northern England and Scotland in a study that claims high-speed rail
could almost eradicate domestic air travel.
The study suggests the
strongest case is for a line from London to Manchester, Glasgow and
Edinburgh, with branches to Birmingham and Liverpool. NR argues the
line should not run via Heathrow Airport because it would reduce the
value and benefits of the project by £3 billion, adding 15 minutes to
journey times, and ‘does not make good financial sense'. NR adds that
90% of air passengers travelling from principal cities on the route to
London would switch to high-speed rail.
Birmingham would be 46 minutes
from London, while Manchester would be 1h 6min, Edinburgh 2h 9min and
Glasgow in 2h 16min.
The study puts the cost of building the line to
Scotland at £15 billion, with £5.4 billion for non-construction costs
such as surveys, design, planning and project management. Government
guidelines also specify a 66% uplift of £13.5 billion, which is applied
to the estimate because the line is at a very early stage of
development. With the inclusion of rolling stock, and operating and
maintaining the line over 60 years, NR anticipates a total cost of
£41.3 billion.
NR says the line would generate revenues of £39.4
billion over 60 years, although the £16 billion reduction in revenue on
existing lines would give a net increase of £23.4 billion. The line is
expected to provide almost £55 billion of benefits over this period,
meaning it would pay for itself 1.8 times over.
High Speed 2, a company
set up by the government to look at options for a high-speed line north
of London, will present the findings of its own study later this year.