The modernisation of the Great Western mainline continues. The following is an update from Mark Hopwood, the Managing Director of Great Western Railway.
“We remain on target and the first of our Intercity Express Trains (IET) will be in operation this autumn between Bristol and London, and Swansea and London.
To make this key milestone, we have a comprehensive driver training and train testing programme in action, and the first of our fully trained IET drivers has now qualified.
We are also making excellent progress with electrification of the mainline. As you will know, we have been upgrading the railway line between Royal Wootton Bassett and Bristol Parkway for the last three weeks. On top of electrifying the railway, here we are building a new platform at Bristol Parkway and extending all of the other platforms to take the new longer IETs. Alongside this we have also been installing a flood alleviation scheme at Chipping Sodbury to make the railway more reliable and less susceptible to flooding.
We have one week to go and remain on schedule and on budget. Even after this big project there is a lot to be done though, and this does mean that there are changes to services, especially at the weekend for the next couple of months. This is particularly true for Bristol and Wales where we are working to remodel the track layout to help us improve reliability with greater flexibility. Testing the new overhead wires between Didcot and Maidenhead will mean lots of timetable changes in the Thames Valley on the weekend of the 16 and 17 September. Details are available on our dedicated website page www.gwr.com/Reading2017
We have also just added details of the work planned to take place over the Christmas holidays on a separate page www.gwr.com/Christmas2017. We are a bit later this year in updating the system as we have been working to get the right plan in place. This does mean that while we are doing all we can to enter the revised timetables more quickly; there will be a couple of weeks where timetables are not correctly displayed. This could lead to tickets being purchased for trains that are subsequently amended. We will make sure that customers are made aware of the situation, and will keep you informed on progress.
The work up and over Christmas by the orange army is essential to the next stage of the Class 387 electric trains rollout and will mean that when customers return to work in January we will be able to operate electric trains from Didcot to Paddington, with some in 12 car formations. The roll out of electric trains releases more diesel units for us to cascade to the West, allowing us to make the step change in capacity that you and our customers so much want to see.”