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Network Rail, open day marks Severn tunnel’s 125 years of service

The special event, organised by Network Rail, celebrates the 125th anniversary of the vital rail link and marks the near-completion of a major improvement programme of the pumping station.

The day will offer a unique opportunity for people and the community to tour the Victorian pump house, which was built to remove spring water in the tunnel. Visitors will also get the chance to meet engineers, instrumental in keeping the tunnel safe for trains to run every day.

Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail said: “The event celebrates and marks the significant role Severn tunnel has played over the last 125 years. The tunnel is a remarkable Victorian engineering feat, which has made huge contributions to the growth of the economy and the railway in Monmouthshire and south Wales.

“Despite its age, the tunnel is still going strong especially with huge efforts made over the years in improving the infrastructure. We are not resting on our laurels and we have more improvement plans ahead, so that the tunnel can continue to serve passengers for another 125 years and beyond.”

Around 15% of all the journeys – around 4.7m – made between Wales and South West England, London and South East are through the Severn Tunnel. The 4-mile twin-track in the tunnel forms part of the Great Western main line, which has been earmarked to be electrified by 2017.


For more than 100 years, the tunnel was the longest mainline railway tunnel in Britain. Today, the Sudbrook pumping station removes more than 10m gallons of spring water every day to prevent flooding in the tunnel.

As part of the improvement programme, the pumping system has recently been upgraded to boost its reliability. In addition, four giant ventilation fans have also been improved with new motors, which are vital to help moderate the air pressure and quality of air within the tunnel.

These major improvements are key to help prepare the tunnel for electrification work in the near future. Detailed survey and design are being currently being carried out to help identify engineering options in electrifying the railway through the tunnel.


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