Today marks the successful completion of the first phase of improvement work for the huge rail investment scheme in the Newport area, which will enhance the reliability of the 3m rail journeys made each year via Severn Tunnel Junction.
The improvement work, carried out over the Christmas and new year holiday period, is part of the £150m Newport area re-signalling scheme to usher in a 21st century railway to south Wales. More than 400 engineers worked round the clock every day, ploughing in nearly 100,000 manhours altogether to complete the work on time.
Chris Rayner, route director for Network Rail, said: “Network Rail has delivered on the day we said we would for an extremely complex programme of work. This first phase of work alone took nearly four years to bring it from canvas to concrete and the result today is because of the hard work from our engineers and all our partners pulling in to make it possible.
“Severn Tunnel Junction is among the busiest railway junction in Wales and a key link to England, it is now even more robust to serve passengers in the many decades to come. We have made good on decades of underinvestment, and this effort in south Wales will continue to meet growing rail demand.”
The second phase of this scheme, which will include the re-signalling of Newport Station and re-modelling of the track layout at Maindee Junction, has already started and work is due to complete by the end of the year.
The majority of the work will be carried out overnight when trains are not running to minimise any passenger disruptions.
The railway at Severn Tunnel Junction is now completely revamped with a new layout that removes the bottleneck in the area, which will cut delays and promise the capability for more trains to run in the future.
For the first time in 25 years, passengers travelling to England will embark from the newly restored platform 4 that was abandoned during the 1980s.
The new signalling centre in Cardiff also swings into operation for the first time today as cutting-edge digital technology is used to manage train operations between East Usk (Newport) and Pilning (Bristol).
A total of 81 signals, 10 new signal gantries, 168 train detection counters and 39km of power cable have also been renewed between Pilning (Bristol) and East Usk. The upgrade will extend the lifespan of the rail infrastructure for at least another four decades.
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.
The railway around Severn Tunnel Junction suffered years of decline after it was bombed in World War II, this scheme has reversed the history of Severn Tunnel Junction.