Network Rail and GWR remind passengers to plan their journey ahead of Severn Tunnel upgrade

Wednesday 10th August 2016

Rail passengers are being reminded to plan their journeys before travelling ahead of a six-week closure of the Severn Tunnel to prepare the Great Western Mainline for a brand new fleet of electric trains.

On 12 September the 130 year-old tunnel will close to trains for six weeks as Network Rail’s orange army work day and night to install over eight miles of electrical equipment which, once the electrification is complete, will power a new fleet of electric trains – delivering more seats, more frequent services, and faster and greener journeys.

What should I expect if I am travelling?

From Monday 12 September to Friday 21 October GWR high-speed train services will be diverted between Swindon and Newport; increasing journey times by approximately 30 minutes.

• One service an hour between Paddington, Newport and Cardiff/Swansea (not calling at Bristol parkway)
• One service an hour between Paddington and Bristol Parkway, calling at normal timetabled stops

Replacement buses

• Replacement buses will run between Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway, and between Bristol Parkway and Newport, and journey times involving a replacement bus are likely to be extended by approximately 45 minutes

GWR Development Manager, Wales, Mark Youngman said:

"The electrification of the Severn Tunnel is a vital part in the modernisation of the railway between South Wales and London; and once complete will enable us to deliver more frequent services, more seats, and to reduce journey times into London by as much as 20 minutes from Swansea.

“We have been working closely with Network Rail and local authorities in Wales and along the route to make sure that we keep customers on trains wherever possible and provide the quickest, most convenient journey to their destination, minimizing disruption as best we can.

The tunnel upgrade marks a major milestone in delivering electric trains for passengers in South Wales and is part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better railway for passengers.

Dan Tipper, area director for Network Rail Wales, said:

“While this iconic project will result in short-term disruption, there are significant long-term benefits which will come as a result of electrifying the railway to Cardiff by 2019 including faster, more frequent trains and a boost to economic growth in South Wales thanks to better connectivity to and from London, a critical factor for attracting inward investment.

“Without a solid six-week closure, it would take engineers up to five years to complete the upgrade, causing long-term disruption for passengers and delaying electrification until 2021.

“We would like to thank passengers for their understanding and patience as we complete this essential upgrade."

The scale of the engineering challenge involved and the extensive amount of machinery required to complete the essential upgrade work of the four mile long tunnel means that the closure is unavoidable and Network Rail is working with Great Western Railway to minimize disruption for passengers.

Ahead of the closure a significant amount of preparation work has already been completed with forty tonnes of soot removed from the tunnel, repairs to brick work and the installation of cable cleats.

What about other rail services?

• Trains will run between Bristol Parkway and Portsmouth Harbour
• Trains will run between Bristol Parkway and Taunton; services to Weston-Super-Mare that would normally start/terminate at Bristol Parkway will start from Filton Abbey Wood.
• Additional work on the railway line will also see passenger journeys’ altered on a number of weekends between September and October.

For further information about how your journey may be affected please click here for more details.

Notes to editors

Great Western Railway (GWR) provides high speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services. We help over 100 million passengers reach their destinations every year - across South Wales, the West Country, the Cotswolds, and large parts of Southern England.

We’re currently seeing the biggest investment in the network since Brunel so we can offer more trains, more seats, and shorter, more frequent journeys and continue the network’s heritage of helping connect more businesses to new and prosperous markets. Through a series of initiatives we aim to be a good neighbour to the communities we serve and are committed to making a positive social impact in those regions. Learn how we're Building a Greater West at GWR.com. GWR is a FirstGroup company.

More travel information about the Severn Tunnel project can be found at: https://www.gwr.com/travel-updates/planned-engineering/severn-tunnel