£150M delivers a new rail era for South Wales

- Biggest investment and improvement work in the Severn Tunnel Junction area in this generation.

- Rail bottleneck at Severn Tunnel Junction untangled and a disused platform brought back to passenger use.

- State-of-the-art signalling technology adopted for the first time in Wales, creating jobs for the region.

The first phase of improvement work for the largest rail investment scheme in South Wales is nearly completed and the New Year will mark a brand new start for thousands of passengers at Severn Tunnel Junction.

For the first time in 25 years, passengers will be able to embark on their rail journey from the restored Platform 4, which was abandoned during a cutback in the 80s.

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In addition, the revamped railway, complete with new track, new layout and modernised signalling technology, is set to improve performance, significantly cutting delays.

Chris Rayner, Western route director, Network Rail said: “The £150m Newport area re-signalling scheme is set to deliver a 21st century railway to South Wales and will also reverse the history of Severn Tunnel Junction.  The railway around Severn Tunnel Junction suffered years of decline after it was bombed in World War II.  While this work will significantly boost performance, it will also provide the potential for more trains to travel through in the future.”

Around 3.5miles of new track will also be installed to bring a more reliable service to passengers travelling in the area.  Also to be renewed are 16 sets of life-expired points to create a new layout at Severn Tunnel Junction railway to improve train movements into and out of the tunnel.

Signalling equipment between Severn Tunnel Junction and East Usk will also be completely modernised with new technology, which will be controlled - for the first time in Wales - from the new signalling centre in Cardiff.

This move has created 11 new jobs for the region and six additional signallers are set to join in the later part of next year.

As part of the re-signalling work, 81 signals, 10 new signal gantries, 168 train detection counters and 39km of power cable will be installed amongst other improvement work.

A dedicated siding facility in the Severn Tunnel Junction area will also be created to house tunnel emergency rail vehicles and track machines.

Passengers will also benefit from new waiting shelters and digitised real-time information system at the station as part of a separate initiative, jointly funded by Network Rail, Arriva Train Wales, Welsh Assembly Government and SEWTA.

Councillor Jeffrey James, the chair of Sewta (the South East Wales Transport Alliance), welcomed Network Rail announcement.

“This major investment will see the long awaited replacement of 50 year old technology and bring new levels of reliability and benefits to the travelling public for many years to come.  This development brings the opportunity to provide extra capacity on the rail network necessary for the introduction new services and paves the way for electrification of the South Wales – London route.”

Improvement work began one year ago and is now gathering pace.  In the last one year, engineers have been working overnight and during the weekends to minimise disruption to passengers.

This pattern of work will carry on over the next two months and engineers will also make use of the quiet period during the Christmas period to continue the improvement work into New Year’s Eve, in time for time-table change on 4 January.

Rail services between Newport and Bristol and Newport and Gloucester will be replaced by coach services on 27 December 2009 – 3 January 2010.

Replacement bus services are:

-      Hourly through services between Bristol Parkway and Newport,

-      Hourly service calling at Bristol Parkway, Patchway and Severn Tunnel Junction

-      Two hourly services calling at Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction, Caldicot, Chepstow, Lydney and Gloucester

-      Hourly through services between Gloucester and Newport

Passengers are advised to plan their journey in advance and contact National Rail Enquiries or their train operators to check the time-table before they travel.