by Phil Marsh

More rail electrification plans unveiled

Published: 3rd December 2014

Welsh Valley network and Lake District branch line to be upgraded

The Government has announced two plans to extend electrification to the Welsh Valleys’ rail network and to the 10 mile branchline between Oxenholme and Windermere.

The Lake District scheme is estimated to cost £16 million and will remove the need for diesel trains to serve the line. Once the northwest electrification project is completed, through services will continue link the National Park with Manchester.

Network Rail will carry out the work and the line could be electrified within three years. NR is also electrifying the lines between Manchester and Liverpool, Preston, Leeds and York, and Preston to Blackpool.

They said:

Rail Minister Baroness Kramer said:

Electrifying this key rail link will support the vital tourism industry in the area, and help us build a stronger economy in the Lake District and beyond.

Chris Nutton, First TransPennine Express Programme Director, said:

We are absolutely delighted that the Department for Transport has announced that the line between Oxenholme and Windermere will be electrified in the near future. First TransPennine Express has worked with local representatives and Network Rail to develop a solid business case in relation to the improvements.

Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabb said: This is fantastic news for Wales and provides a major incentive for businesses to invest in the country. I am delighted that we can now seize this opportunity to transform the Valley communities. Effective transport links are a vital part of any modern economy and there are few areas in the UK more in need of the improved commuter costs, travel times and more frequent train services that this investment brings.

The benefits of reduced journey times and increased capacity means that the Valleys can benefit from the economic growth that cities such as Cardiff and Newport are already experiencing by making it quicker and easier for people to travel to them. Journey times from both Merthyr Tydfil and Treherbert to Cardiff would be reduced by around 10 minutes to a just over 50 minutes.

We recognise the importance of rail connectivity across the regions and this line electrification is part of an unprecedented level of investment of the railway in the north. It is great news for the region and the local economy and will ensure that the southern lakes remain an important and accessible tourist destination.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in lobbying for and achieving this significant investment.

Electrification for the Valley lines’ network

Meanwhile at the recent UK investment summit in Newport, (South Wales) the Prime Minister announced that the UK government has agreed a funding package with the Welsh government to electrify the Valley Lines. This had been the subject of a fractious debate between the two legislatures over who had promised what when the Great West Main Line (GWML) electrification scheme was announced.

The UK government will meet all the costs of electrifying the GWML between Paddington and Swansea and will devolve the Wales and Borders rail franchise to Cardiff where the Welsh government will decide on the new franchise in 2018.

Who pays for what?

The UK government will take over sponsorship and fund the Cardiff-Bridgend section of the GWML electrification scheme to Swansea at a cost of £105 million as well as contributing £125 million towards the costs of the Valley Lines network electrification. The Welsh government will assume sponsorship and responsibility for delivery of the Valley Lines project.

They said:

Prime Minister David Cameron said: I am delighted to announce today that we are going to press ahead with the electrification of the Valley Lines. After years of neglect, this part of Wales will finally get the infrastructure it needs with faster, more modern, more efficient trains and the impact will be huge.

End of Pacers and Sprinters?

These branch lines were under serious threat of closure in the early/mid 1980s and were saved with the introduction with new but cheap trains such as the Class 14X ‘Pacers’ which were really buses which ran on rails. They are noisy and give a poor ride but are cheap to operate. Sprinters (Class 150) from 30 years ago provided a more comfortable ride the even if a bit cramped.

The South Wales Valley Lines network was under threat of closure due to the reducing coal and iron traffic which kept lines open long after passenger trains ceased. But the local authorities actively pursued a re-opening strategy of the freight lines to passenger use in an attempt to create regeneration and it has worked. Electrification is now a measure of this success.

These trains will be replaced by electric trains, which although may not be new, will offer a better quality ride and better journey times as their performance is far better than diesel units.

The Government had promised to scrap all Pacers a few years ago but the inexorable growth in rail usage means that they are still needed and used to keep overcrowding down on urban routes. These cost only maybe 20% of the cost of a new train so the economic case for retaining them remains, despite Government promises!

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