Network Rail today committed to continuing the biggest investment in Welsh railway infrastructure since the Victorian era. Its plans will reduce costs and deliver more passengers on time than ever before – but the company also warned that tough choices need to be made if the industry is to meet these competing challenges.
The company’s strategic business plan for the Wales route, which has been submitted to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), sets out proposals which will help drive the country’s economy and make its railway fit for the future.
The business plan, covering the period from 2014 to 2019, maps out a programme of projects designed to maintain and improve an ageing infrastructure and schemes to reduce the cost of running the rail network. Work will be undertaken to electrify parts of the network, renew life-expired signalling and improve and renew bridges, tunnels, track and stations.
Passenger numbers in Wales have grown significantly over the last 10 years. This unprecedented growth is forecast to continue and the challenge now is to deliver a railway that is fit for the 21st century and meets the demands and needs of passengers.
The first stage of the ten-year Wales route modernisation plan is to commence in north Wales with the re-signalling of the main line between Flint and Llandudno. Aligned with a similar scheme to re-signal the critical Marches route between Newport and Shrewsbury, both projects will provide the ability to run more frequent and faster trains between north Wales and south Wales.
Plans to electrify the main line between Swansea and London Paddington will help reduce journey times and provide quieter, more comfortable journeys. The work combined with other projects on the line, such as the congestion busting redevelopment of the railway in the Reading area and Crossrail, will improve reliability and reduce journey times to London and make south Wales a more attractive place to do business.
Additionally, electrification of the Valleys network will provide commuters with a fast, frequent, reliable and modern link into Cardiff that builds on the £220m re-signalling project currently underway.
This work to improve services on the Valleys network will also provide the prospect of a ‘metro’-style service for the Cardiff city region and Network Rail has committed to continue working with the Welsh Government and other stakeholders to develop the concept further.
Mark Langman, Network Rail route managing director for Wales, said: “This is an exciting time for the railway. We are now carrying a record number of people on record numbers of trains at record levels of reliability. We are also operating a more efficient railway, with the level of public subsidy almost halved from its peak in 2006.
“The Wales Route network has a long and proud history, but inherent in its past lie many of the challenges of the future. The plans we have set out will deliver the biggest investment in the Welsh rail network since the Victorian era. Much of our infrastructure still dates from that period and this investment will help bring the network into the 21st century.
“Wales relies on rail and our plans outlined in the Strategic Business Plan will deliver a real improvement to passengers with the potential for quicker and more frequent journeys on a network that is more resilient and reliable. Better links to London and improved commuting opportunities around Wales, including to the new enterprise zones, will also help drive economic growth across the country.
“This is an ambitious plan that will help move the railway in Wales to the next level.”
The main schemes benefiting Wales are:
* Network Rail is currently re-signalling the railway in south Wales. This work is being carried out in stages. The first two phases in the Newport area have been completed, with the third stage scheduled for 2017.
* We will be working to renew the signalling in the Cardiff area until 2015. Alongside the re-signalling scheme is a project to boost capacity on the Valleys network with new platforms at Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street, Caerphilly, Barry, Tir-phil and Pontypridd. The south-side entrance at Cardiff Central and the main entrance at Cardiff Queen Street will also be improved.
* The re-signalling of the Swansea area will be delivered ahead of electrification.
Control of all signalling on the South Wales main line is being migrated into to the Rail Operating Centre in Cardiff.
* This state-of-the-art facility will eventually control all signalling and train activity on the Wales route and contribute to an annual saving of £4.6m in signalling costs.
* The signalling on the line from Newport to Shrewsbury will be renewed by 2017, with benefits for services from south Wales to Manchester and north Wales.
* The line from Chester to Llandudno will be re-signalled in 2015. This will improve reliability and offers the potential to reduce journey times and increase capacity along North Wales.
* By December 2018, Network Rail plans to electrify the railway from Severn Tunnel to Swansea.
* Electrification of the line between Swansea and London Paddington will pave the way for new electric trains, which have more seats than the current diesel trains of the same length and are able to accelerate and brake more quickly, speeding up journey times to London.
* We will also be starting work to electrify the Cardiff and Valleys network, with work scheduled for completion in early control period 6 (2019 – 2024). Electrification of the Valleys network builds on the current £220m Cardiff area re-signalling project and will allow faster, more frequent and more reliable journeys.
* Electric trains are cheaper to operate, require less maintenance and have lower energy costs and carbon emissions than diesel trains. They are also lighter and do less damage to the track, helping to deliver a more reliable railway and reducing the need for track maintenance.
North – South Wales
* The Welsh Government funded ‘North – South Wales Journey Improvement’ project will be completed by 2015.
* Complementing this project are re-signalling works on the same route during CP5 (control period 5, 2014-19), as noted above. These works will seek to regularise speed profiles by removing existing infrastructure constraints and provide track and signalling layouts better suited to current and future needs and demands.
Other highlights include;
* Major refurbishment of the metallic spans of the Grade 2 listed Barmouth Bridge.
* Station improvements, including refurbishment of Holyhead station.
* 350 kms of track to be renewed or refurbished.
Renewing or refurbishing 480 sets of points.