Railway Restored: regular trains to run on Dartmoor Line for first time in 50 years

  • First passenger train on the first Restoring Your Railway reopening will run on Wednesday 17 November, ahead of public services resuming on Saturday 20 November  
  • Restored in just 9 months, and delivered £10m under budget, transforming a mothballed former freight railway to regular services.
  • Reopening is the first of the Government’s Restoring Your Railway schemes to return to service, fulfilling a manifesto commitment. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will today dispatch the first passenger train to run on the Dartmoor Line for over 50 years, as the line once again becomes part of the UK rail network for passengers.

This has been made possible thanks to over £40 million of Government investment through the Restoring Your Railway programme.

The line links Okehampton to Exeter and will officially reopen to the public for regular year-round, all-week passenger services on 20 November. 

The first train runs this Wednesday, travelling from Okehampton, and will carry local school children, campaigners, railway staff, and supporters who all helped make the project happen. 

The Department for Transport, Network Rail and Great Western Railway (GWR) have worked together to reopen this line ahead of time and under budget. Benefitting from the application of Rail Project SPEED approaches, the Dartmoor Line has been transformed from a mothballed former freight railway with occasional Summer Sunday services to a full seven days per week passenger operation in a mere 9 months since confirmation of funding, coming in more than £10m under budget.  

A service will run every 2 hours, with plans to expand to an hourly service in 2022. This will benefit students heading to colleges in Exeter as well as tourists travelling towards Dartmoor, easing congestion on local roads and helping boost local economies,

Since 1997, the line has only been open during some Sundays in Summer after regular services were withdrawn in 1972. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: 

“Improving transport links is essential to levelling up and spreading opportunity across the country, which is why we are driving forward our pledge to reverse the Beeching cuts in Devon today.

“As we reopen the Dartmoor line, we are rightly reconnecting communities, giving passengers the chance to choose rail over the road and travel from Exeter to Okehampton on greener, cleaner modes of transport.”  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“By restoring the Dartmoor Line we are undoing 50 years of damage, reconnecting a community and creating new opportunities for jobs, tourism, education and recreation.

“We have made it our mission to reverse cuts made in the Beeching era of the 1960s. The passion, nostalgia and enthusiasm for that ambition is clear right across the country.

“People love their railways, and rightly miss them when they’re gone. Today – ahead of time, and under budget – we’ve made a decisive step in fixing that, cutting the ribbon on a line and making a real difference to people’s lives.”

The Restoring Your Railway fund was launched in January 2020 to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations, many of which were cut following Dr Beeching’s report on ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ in 1963.

The fund is focused on delivering schemes that can level up the country,  reconnect cut-off communities,  improve access to jobs, homes and education and boost opportunity across the country.

The Department and its partners have accelerated the reopening of the railway, delivering passenger services in only 9 months from the original funding being approved to entry into service, and saving money at the same time. As the Government continues its overhaul of the railways following the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, more lines and stations will be re-opened. 

To make the restoration possible, Network Rail’s team of engineers worked tirelessly to deliver a huge programme of work to physically reopen the line in just 9 months, including laying 11 miles of new track and installing 24,000 concrete sleepers and 29,000 tonnes of ballast in a record-breaking 20-day period.

Repairs have also been made to 21 structures along the route including 4 bridges. Other infrastructure work has included level crossing improvements and the installation of railway communications equipment.  Vegetation clearance, earth and drainage works and fencing have also been completed and further infrastructure work will continue to take place to increase the line speed to enable an hourly service in 2022. 

Michelle Handforth, Network Rail’s Wales & Western regional managing director, said: 

“Today marks a significant milestone for the railway and the local community and I am delighted to have been able to welcome the Secretary of State to Okehampton to mark this special occasion.

“I am so proud of our engineers whose hard work and dedication has resulted in this line reopening ahead of schedule and today enable the Secretary of State, campaigners and supporters of the Dartmoor Line to enjoy a first passenger journey.

“I would like to thank the local community, our partners and everyone who has supported us in reopening this railway line and I am excited to think that this Saturday, regular passenger services will resume for the first time in nearly 50 years.”

Great Western Railway identified suitable rolling stock and developed a robust timetable with franchise funding ahead of funding being agreed for the infrastructure elements of the project. The project has also hugely benefitted from strong local support spearheaded by Devon County Council, without which it would have taken far longer to reach the point where regular year-round services can be restored after almost 50 years. 

Great Western Railway, Dartline Coaches and Devon County Council have also made sure that local transport is all coordinated, ensuring easy bus and train connections to the rest of Britain are easily accessible from the Dartmoor Line. 

More work will be carried out over the winter including on the station buildings to enable the restoration of the café and other facilities. 

Mark Hopwood, GWR Managing Director, said: 

“This has been a key aspiration for the community and the rail industry for some time and today is a significant day for everyone who has been involved. I am delighted to have been able to invite the Secretary of State, and leading community campaigners, to enjoy a first passenger journey on this restored line.

“The support and advocacy of the local campaigners over the years has helped deliver a fantastic new service for customers, which we hope will grow from strength to strength.”

Hitachi and Eversholt Rail to develop GWR intercity battery hybrid train – offering fuel savings of more than 20%

In a UK-first, Hitachi Rail and Eversholt Rail have signed an exclusive agreement aimed at bringing battery power – and fuel savings of more than 20% – to the modern Great Western Railway Intercity Express Trains that carry passengers between Penzance and London.

The 36 longer, faster trains – with their iconic sleek design – have already transformed journeys for passengers in south west England, since their introduction by GWR in August 2018. Now the partnership between Hitachi, the train builder and maintainer, and Eversholt Rail, the trains’ owner, will develop a plan to install batteries on a modern Intercity Express Train. The trial will demonstrate that the innovation meets passenger service and safety standards.

The line between the South West and London is only partially electrified, with the majority of the 300 mile journey requiring diesel power. The partnership is looking at batteries replacing a diesel engine as a power source on an existing Hitachi-built five-carriage train – currently known as a bi-mode for its ability to switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power.

Adding a battery creates an electric-diesel-battery hybrid train (tri-mode). On non-electrified sections of the route, the batteries will supplement the power of the engines to reduce fuel usage and carbon emissions by more than 20%. Whereas when travelling in and out of stations and surrounding urban areas, the train would rely on battery power only. This has the benefit of improving air quality and dramatically reduce noise levels, creating a more pleasant environment for passengers and people living nearby.

GWR’s Intercity Express Train fleet currently calls at 15 non-electrified stations on its journey between Penzance and London, all of which could benefit from trains running on battery-only power.

Hitachi Rail will draw upon market-leading expertise in Japan, and the support of its battery partner – Hyperdrive Innovation. The two North East-based companies reached an agreement in July 2020 to create and develop battery packs for mass production at Hyperdrive’s HYVE facility in Sunderland, the UK’s first independent battery pack manufacturing facility.

The projected improvements in battery technology – particularly in power output and charge – create opportunities to replace incrementally more diesel engines on long distance trains. With the ambition to create a fully electric-battery intercity train – that can travel the full journey between London and Penzance – by the late 2040s, in line with the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

Installing battery technology on trains can complement electrification and helps to improve the business case for upgrades that can level-up the South West and provide a low emission alternative to domestic air travel.

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton Harris, said:

“This is an exciting partnership to develop technology that can make rail travel more sustainable across the UK’s network. Battery powered trains will support us in our battle against climate change and poor air quality, and improve the overall passenger experience. As we continue to build back better, developments like this are major stepping stones towards achieving the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions target.”

Jim Brewin, UK & Ireland Country Lead, Hitachi Rail said:

“This partnership is an exciting opportunity to unlock new greener trains for passengers, reduce running costs for operators and cut carbon. At Hitachi Rail we share the UK’s ambition for a net zero emission future. Britain is in a unique position to become a global leader in battery trains, we want support the UK’s green economic recovery and levelling-up.”

Mary Kenny, Eversholt Rail Chief Executive Officer said:

“We are delighted to continue working in partnership with Hitachi to investigate the conversion of our Class 802 fleet to tri-mode by introducing battery technology. Eversholt Rail is committed to ensuring our fleets meet the UK Railway’s decarbonisation commitments.”

Matthew Golton, Interim Managing Director, GWR said:

“We are committed to reviewing emerging technologies such as battery power and assessing feasibility for services and rolling stock on the GWR network. This is a really exciting development and we look forward to working closely with both Hitachi Rail and Eversholt Rail on this trial.”

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s interim Wales & Western regional managing director, said: 

“We welcome this agreement particularly as it supports our recently published Traction Decarbonisation Strategy and our commitment to supporting the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target. It also builds on the positive impact of electrification and our ambition to deliver greener and more sustainable travel.”

New longer platform for St James Park station and better railway journey to Exmouth

Network Rail will be extending the platforms at St James Park and Lympstone Commando as well as improving track between Exeter and Exmouth over half term week 25 – 30 October

The work will ensure that passengers using the station will be able to travel sustainably and will have better access to trains when alighting and boarding.

The work to replace the track at Exmouth Junction will ensure that people travelling to the south coast will have more reliable journeys.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Western route director, said:

“It’s great that we are able to undertake a number of projects at the same time during closures of the railway.

“We have been working with our train operator colleagues to plan a coordinated work package to reduce the impact on the travelling public.  By undertaking as much work as possible during a closure, we are able to minimise the impact to travellers.

“Whilst carrying out this work during half term may affect some people, the majority of people will be at home and therefore less inconvience is caused.” 

Mel Harvey, GWR Station Manager for Mid-Devon said,

‘’This essential work will see the platforms at St James’ Park and Lympstone Commando extended, allowing customers the opportunity to take better advantage of the trains we are able to run; as well as vital track renewal work.

We have been working hard to make sure that people can be confident to travel safely, and that includes running as many trains and carriages as we can to make extra room, and replacement buses where trains cannot operate, as well as enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures. 

Please do however, check before you travel and be considerate of others.” 

Alan Penlington, South Western Railway’s customer experience director, said:

“Whilst there’s never a good time to close the railway, half term is historically a quieter time and the works taking place at Exmouth Junction will improve reliability and performance along this this important stretch of railway for years to come.

I realise these works will mean disruption for our customers, however, replacement buses will be in operation and this longer closure will save months of weekend engineering works. I’d like to apologise to our customer for the inconvenience caused and thank them for their patience.”

Rail Minister visits Brunel Plaza regeneration

The Rail Minister has visited Plymouth to meet those responsible for the regeneration of Brunel Plaza.

The Brunel Plaza scheme involves an upgrade for Plymouth Railway Station, along with a major revamp of the surrounding area, including the redevelopment of Intercity House by the University of Plymouth to train the city’s future health professionals; a new hotel and multi-storey car park; and improvements to public areas and links to the city centre.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“Our stations serve as gateways to our towns and cities, ensuring communities are connected, enabling access to education and employment and facilitating tourism. 

“The Brunel Plaza Scheme will mark an exciting new chapter for Plymouth and I was delighted to visit the station to see first-hand how it will help transform the area into a vibrant catalyst for regeneration. 

“This government will continue to invest in vital projects such as this to ensure we boost regional economies and build back better from Covid-19.”

Plymouth station

Pic shows L to R: Network Rail’s Francis McGarry; University of Plymouth’s Tim Brooksbank; Cllr Tudor Evans, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Minister of State for Transport; GWR’s Richard Rowland and Plymouth City Council Chief Executive Tracey Lee during a visit to Plymouth Station to have a look at the Brunel Plaza regeneration project. 

Improvements for the station concourse include doubling the capacity of the existing gate-line with better shops and facilities for passengers. 

The project involves: 

• refurbishment of Plymouth Station concourse 
• refurbishment and change of use of Intercity Place for use by the University of Plymouth 
• re-location of facilities within the RISC building to a new building to the west of the station 
• demolition of the RISC building 
• construction of a new multi-storey car park on the site of the former RISC building 
• new-build accommodation for the University of Plymouth 
• demolition of the existing multi-storey car park 
• construction of a new hotel on the site of the demolished multi-storey car park 
• improved and re-configured pedestrian, cycle and vehicular access to the station and city centre 

Permission was granted in September for the Intercity Place project, which will involve the complete regeneration of an 11-storey building overlooking Plymouth Railway Station. 

It will be reconfigured and refurbished throughout – with the exterior also being rejuvenated – so that the finished development creates a striking and welcoming entrance to Britain’s Ocean City. 

The University has now signed a long-term lease on the building from Network Rail, and work will begin imminently to give it a new lease of life. 

Once completed, it will house inter-professional clinical skills facilities for the University’s Faculty of Health and be used to train future nurses, midwives, paramedics, physiotherapists, and other allied health professionals. 

There will also be additional educational services, enabling staff to work together in one location to support the future health workforce. 

Council Leader Tudor Evans OBE said: 

“This is huge and this is happening – you can already see change on the ground. The corner car park at Station Approach has been turned into a compound for contractors, diggers have been on site – and we’ve had a mural painted at North Cross, to give a nicer welcome for visitors.  

“We need to give people a much better impression when they arrive in Plymouth. We need them to feel this is a city going places, a city that is on the up. It’s an ambitious project that is coming together like a giant jigsaw, with key organisations each playing their part. It couldn’t come at a better time.” 

The existing car park opposite the entrance is also earmarked for demolition and a new hotel and second university building created in its place. The masterplan proposes a new car park, almost doubling the capacity to 469 spaces, for the site of the RISC building. Station staff accommodation will be modernised and significant new public space created including a direct pedestrian link to North Cross and the city centre. 

GWR Deputy Managing Director Richard Rowland said:
 “It is easy to see why the station is regarded as the gateway to the South West.  

“Over the last two years we at GWR we have delivered new Intercity Express Trains, and more frequent and faster journeys to and from the city, and I am delighted that this major upgrade work can begin creating the entrance the city deserves. 
Network Rail Route Director, Western Route, Mike Gallop said: 

“Training future NHS staff is essential, and we are excited to offer Intercity Place back to the city in order to support the future of the NHS. We believe that Plymouth provides opportunity for young academics across the country and the world.  

“This is why we are upgrading Plymouth railway station to meet the city’s growing need of a transport hub that evokes an arrival that lets you know you have reached Britain’s ocean city.”
Tim Brooksbank, Interim Director of Estates and Facilities at the University of Plymouth, said:
“The Intercity Place project will be a landmark development in every sense and demonstrates our commitment to, and confidence in, the city of Plymouth. 

“It will transform an iconic building on Plymouth’s skyline to create a modern and attractive welcome to the city for residents, workers, tourists and students alike. But its role in training future generations of health professionals means it can be an inspiring place for all those who work and learn there, and enhance our place as the largest provider of healthcare training in the South West.”

The entire scheme is expected to cost in the region of £80m and has the backing of Plymouth City Council; the University of Plymouth; Cornwall and Heart of South West LEPs; the DfT; GWR and Network Rail. 

Let’s travel safely this summer as GWR announces enhanced getaway services

Additional train services for Devon and Cornwall have been announced from this weekend to help people returning to rail travel do so safely, but customers are reminded to consider others and wear a face covering, and to wash their hands regularly.
As more people return to rail after the easement of lockdown restrictions, train operator GWR has been working hard to welcome people back on to its services. 
This includes increased cleaning regimes and the use of a virucidal spray; extra staff at key stations to offer help and guidance; and processes in place to help customers maintain a safe distance where possible such as restricting the number of reservations available. 
GWR Interim Managing Director Matthew Golton said:
“As the lockdown eases and government advice on travel changes, we are seeing more people coming back to the railway. 
“Staff across GWR have been working hard and we continue to take sensible steps to look after ourselves and each other, and to start welcoming people more widely back on to the railway.
“An awful lot of hard work has been done to make sure people feel that they can travel safely, and that includes running more trains and carriages to make extra room. 
“From Saturday we will re-introduce even more services into our timetable as more people return to the train. Please do be considerate of others and wear a face covering unless you are exempt, be mindful of others; plan ahead; avoid busy times where possible; and do take advantage of the extra hand-washing facilities we have had installed.”
To further maximise space on board, from this weekend GWR has announced more trains for Devon and Cornwall, including restoring a significant number of direct London to Cornwall services.
The enhancements will mean three additional services from London Paddington on Saturdays from this Saturday [25 July]. Two will run to Plymouth and the third directly to Paignton, restoring direct services to Torbay in time for the summer. There will also be four more round trips (8 services) on local trains between Exeter/Plymouth and Penzance.  
During the week, the train operator will extend four London services through to Penzance, restoring direct London services to Cornwall. A further six round trips (12 services) from London Paddington will operate: two running to Exeter, one to Plymouth and three running direct to Paignton. In addition to the London services, there will also be a further three round trips (6 services) between Exeter/Plymouth and Penzance to provide the extra capacity needed to support safer travel through the summer. 
GWR is encouraging customers to travel safely this summer. People are reminded to:
• wear a face covering
• travel at quieter times where possible
• wash your hands more regularly
• buy tickets online, on a smart card or by using the GWR app

Great Western Railway unveils special livery

Great Western Railway unveils special livery thanking key workers and celebrating diversity

Unique design features the ideas of three teenagers from across GWR network

Great Western Railway (GWR) today unveiled a special livery thanking key workers for their incredible efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, inspired by the company’s design a train competition.

With a theme of ‘The nation says thank you’, the special design features words of gratitude in 116 different languages used by those living across the GWR network.

The livery, carried by Intercity Express Train number 802020, incorporates the ideas of three teenagers who entered a competition on GWR’s social media channels to design a train livery.

The nation says thank you’: The striking new livery credit GWR

Sam Smith, 13, from Gloucestershire, suggested the words ‘The nation says thank you’; Sam Moorey, 15, from Newton Abbot, proposed saying ‘thank you’ in different languages; and Ned Thompson, 16, of Guildford, crafted the overall design.

GWR worked with local authorities and NHS trusts to ensure the diversity of communities across the network was represented. The livery features 109 speech bubbles, using 116 languages from at least 166 countries.

It has been unveiled days before the nation joins in one final NHS clap on Sunday 5 July at 1700, to applaud all those who have helped through the pandemic and recognise the vital community connections that continue to support us all.

Tribute: The new livery incorporating the ideas of three competition winners credit GWR

The ‘design a special train livery’ competition was judged by Railway Historian and broadcaster Tim Dunn, who admitted it was a tough task settling on the final design.

Tim said:

“Everyone is incredibly grateful to those key workers, including the railway family, who have been working tirelessly to help us through the pandemic.

“We wanted the design to represent the thoughts and thanks of those living across the network and believe the inclusion of these different languages is the perfect way to illustrate everyone’s gratitude. Hats off to the two Sams and Ned for coming up with such original concepts.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“GWR has chosen a great combination of designs and I am pleased to see the rail industry saying “thank you” in such a great diversity of languages. 

“This serves as an excellent reminder of the hard work of so many people in our NHS and so many other crucial industries, and I am delighted to join with GWR and add my thanks to all the key workers across the nation.”

GWR Head of External Communications Dan Panes said:

“We wanted to give people the opportunity to express their thanks to key workers in a unique way. This design on one of our Intercity Express Trains will provide a lasting tribute to the selfless dedication of all those who have given everything to help us through these unprecedented times.”

Gratitude: The livery features a ‘thank-you’ message in 116 different languages credit GWR

The special livery has been funded by rolling stock leasing company, Eversholt Rail, and Intercity Express Train manufacturer Hitachi Rail.

Mary Kenny, Chief Executive Officer at Eversholt Rail, said:

“We are proud to support Great Western Railway with this fantastic initiative to thank all of the key workers who have supported the country throughout these difficult times. The number of fantastic entries to the competition shows that so many people appreciate the hard work and dedication of our key workers and want to say ‘thank you’. Congratulations to the two Sams and Ned for their winning entries.”

Andy Radford, UK Projects Director at Hitachi Rail, said:

“We have seen first-hand the resilience of key workers, either as passengers using our trains for essential travel or rail staff who kept trains running safely during the peak of the pandemic.

“Hitachi Rail is proud to be part of this fitting tribute, but equally delighted to be giving passengers a reason to smile.”

GWR continues to remind customers to do all they can to follow social distancing guidance. As well as wearing a face covering, planning ahead and avoiding peak travel times where possible, customers are urged to buy tickets online, on a smart card or by using the GWR app.

Video courtesy of GWR

Network Rail brings new flood defence barrier into use to stop flooding north of Exeter

Network Rail has installed a new flood defence barrier to protect passenger journeys from being disrupted by flooding to the north of Exeter.

Cowley Bridge Junction

The barrier, which was installed at the end of May, is part of a £26.5 million programme to reduce the regular disruption to long distance and local (Tarka Line) rail services, between the city of Exeter and the town of Barnstaple that is often caused by flooding of the River Exe around the Cowley Bridge Junction area.

Cowley Bridge – Flood defence being installed

The new metal flood defence barrier can be quickly assembled across the railway when poor weather is forecast and stops the flow of the flood water. When not in use, the barrier remains largely unseen, which means the local landscape remains largely unchanged.

The first part of this project was the installation of large flood drains in 2018, which allow water to drain underneath the railway and safely away from the railway.

Cowley Bridge – Flood defence up
Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Route Director for the Western route, said:

“We are delighted to be further improving the reliability of journeys for passengers travelling to and from the south west.  While we can’t control the weather, we can put in place measures that will help protect the railway from flooding and services not running.

“The area north of Exeter regularly floods and stops rail services running between Devon, Cornwall and the rest of the country. It’s vital for passengers, businesses and the regional economy that we prevent this from happening. The new flood barrier is one of the latest measures we’ve put in place, working with the Environment Agency, to reduce this from happening last year. In February this year, we experienced an extreme amount of wet weather and we were able to see that these measures are already starting to help.”

Cowley Bridge – When not in use
Simon Dart, Flood and Coastal Management Advisor for the Environment Agency, added:

“We were keen to support Network Rail’s project that helps protect this major route from flooding.  The barrier is a part of the new Exeter flood defence scheme and helps to better protect the St David’s area of Exeter, including hundreds of homes and commercial development, plus strategically important roads and infrastructure.”

Cowley Bridge – When not in use

Trainbow turns two as GWR celebrates Pride with a difference

Trainbow, the Intercity Express Train specially designed to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, made its first journey on 7 June 2018. Later this year it will be named after Alan Turing, one of our 100 Great Westerners.

Turing, born in London, was responsible for the breaking of German ciphers in World War Two. He was convicted for his sexuality in 1952 and received a posthumous pardon in 2013, when the “Turing Law” was passed to pardon all gay men convicted in the past.

Alan Turing

Great Westerner: Trainbow will be named in Alan Turing’s honour later this year

GWR’s Business Assurance Director, Joe Graham said:

“Naming Trainbow after Alan Turing is the most fitting tribute to one of our most recognised Great Westerners. This is a double celebration of both the LGBTQ+ community and the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, with Turing being instrumental in the war effort. Over the last two years, Trainbow has continued to bring joy across the Great Western Railway and is our way of showing how proud we are to support our colleagues and customers who are part of the LGBTQ+ community”.

GWR and Network Rail are sharing the message that the rail industry is committed to providing a supportive, inclusive and diverse place for everyone to work in. They are using their social media channels to share content that celebrates Pride month.

Shane Andrews, chair of Network Rail’s Archway (LGBT+) employee network, who also works on the Wales and Western region of the organisation, said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to be joining with our friends at GWR in celebrating Pride month across Network Rail’s Wales and Western region and we join with them in celebrating the second anniversary of ‘Trainbow’.

“While Pride month is usually a time to join together with family, friends and colleagues to celebrate the diverse communities we both serve and live in, it is also an important time to reflect. It’s a time to remember that for many of us in the LGBT+ community, the laws and freedoms we now live under are relatively new, so we must continue to ensure we move forward towards a more inclusive society.

“The global pandemic will not be a barrier to us celebrating Pride month, we will still celebrate, but in a very different way this year.”

GWR is continuing to remind people to only travel by public transport if it is really necessary. To help those who have no alternative, the train company is asking customers to avoid the train if they can, including not using services for leisure purposes or as part of daily exercise.

UK Pride month is from 1-29 June, with GWR’s Pride week starting on 7 June.

South Wales and London now closer than ever as electric railway now running through historic Severn Tunnel

London and south Wales are now closer than ever as from today (Friday 5 June) rail passengers are benefitting from an electrified railway from capital to capital as Network Rail has successfully completed the electrification of the Severn Tunnel.

It means for the first time ever an electric railway will run from Cardiff and Newport in south Wales, through the historic Severn Tunnel and all the way to London Paddington.

Electrification 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 on GWR’s Intercity Express Trains.

At 134-years-old and four miles in length, the Severn Tunnel has an extremely challenging environment, as over 14 million gallons of water are pumped out of it every day by Sudbrook pumping station to stop it from flooding.

Network Rail engineers have worked with world leading experts to find a robust and reliable solution to deliver an electric railway through the tunnel which will ensure passengers gain the full benefits of electrification.

Sudbrook pumping station is also set to be renewed as part of the upgrade of the Severn Tunnel, further improving the reliability of the railway.

Electrification to south Wales supports Welsh Government’s plans which includes a south Wales metro, an integrated transport system across the whole of Wales and a long-term vision for a Swansea Bay Metro.

Mark Langman, Network Rail’s managing director for Wales and Western said:

“I am absolutely delighted that the Severn Tunnel is now fully electrified, resulting in a seamless rail link for passengers between Cardiff and London Paddington.

“Electrification has reduced journey times between south Wales and London by as much as 15 minutes and provided an additional 15,000 weekday seats compared with a year ago, with the possibility of further increasing the number of services and seats from south Wales in the future.

 “It has been a hugely complex task to electrify the tunnel but I’m thrilled that the final piece of the puzzle is now complete.

 “I would like to thank passengers and lineside neighbours for their patience over the past decade as we worked to deliver the transformation of this vital railway and am pleased that they will benefit from these improvements for years to come.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“It’s fantastic to announce the line between the capitals of Wales and England is fully electric at last, benefitting both passengers and the environment through quicker, greener, more reliable journeys.

“The completion of this ambitious project is just one part of our record investment to deliver the most significant upgrade of the UK’s railways since Victorian times, transforming travel for passengers right across the UK.”

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said:

“It is crucial that Wales has cutting-edge transport links to help people travel to work, encourage inward investment and better connect it to the rest of the UK in order to boost prosperity.

“As we seek to grow our economy once again, I look forward to continued collaboration with Network Rail to improve connections, cut journey times and create world-class transport infrastructure in Wales.”

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, said:

“The completion of the electrification works in the Severn Tunnel is welcome news in terms of improving journey times between Capitals and delivering towards our decarbonisation agenda for transport. I would like to thank Network Rail for completing this work in what must have been challenging circumstances.

“I hope that the completion of this work can be taken as a strong signal of intent from Network Rail and the UK Government that there is more investment to come to improve journey times and capacity across South Wales in the future, including electrification westwards beyond Cardiff.

“Clearly in the present circumstance travel should be undertaken only if it is essential, however we continue to plan for the future and this scheme is a clear example of this.”