Network Rail has announced that it will refurbish the 130-year-old Severn and Patchway tunnels this autumn as part of the electrification programme.
The work forms part of Network Rail’s £40bn railway upgrade plan to provide a ‘bigger, better, more reliable’ railway for passengers. It follows projects already underway in Bristol, Bath, Swindon, Didcot and Oxford to electrify the Great Western Main Line.
Network Rail said that the work required to prepare both tunnels for electrification was extensive and would involve installing conductor beams to power the new fleet of electric trains to run underneath. To install this beam in the Severn tunnel, 4t of soot will need to be removed and extensive improvements made to the brickwork, it said.
It added that the scale of the engineering challenge, together with the type of machinery required to carry out the work, will mean that a temporary closure of both tunnels was unavoidable. This temporary closure will take place over six weeks, from 12 September to 21 October.
Severn Tunnel Electrification Drilling Work
“The electrification of the two tunnels is a vital part of the modernisation of the railway between the South West, Wales and London; and once complete will enable us to deliver more frequent services, more seats, and to reduce journey times,” said Great Western Railway general manager central Rob Mullen.
“Electrification will also deliver a greener and quieter railway, resulting in cleaner air and a reduction in noise for those living near the railway.”