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Great Western electrification gets go-ahead to Wales

The Government has announced that the plans for electrification of the Great Western mainline will go ahead – but only to Bristol and Cardiff, not Swansea as was planned by the last government.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond has also announced that the Intercity Express programme (IEP) for new intercity trains for the East Coast and Great Western mainline will go ahead. This follows a review of the plans to ensure that they represented value for money.

The electrification plans will be added to Network Rail’s electrification programme immediately, which already includes electrification of the Thames Valley Great Western lines.

However, Hammond said that plans for wires to go up all the way to Swansea did not have a business case, because there is only one train an hour off peak. They will instead be kept under review, he said.

However, he told the House of Commons said that in examining electrification in Wales, a high level case had been established for the electrification of the Welsh Valley lines from Cardiff, a business case for which will now be built up ahead of Network Rail’s next control period, starting in 2014.

Hammond told the House that Agility trains, who won the tender to build the new IEP trains, had proposed a lower cost version of the train that included the provision for trains to run under both electric and diesel power on the East Coast and Great Western mainlines.

After discussions with Agility, the Department had now agreed that the IEP proposal would now be taken forward, he announced, providing more than 11,000 more seats during peak times. Financial close will be reached this year, he said.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said that the additional electrification and new train carriages would improve the passenger experience on the rail network and provide economic benefit, but she added that Hammond was breaking a manifesto promise to take the line to Swansea.

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