Network Rail announces plans for electrifying rail route through Bath

Network Rail has announced how it plans to electrify the rail route through the city and onto Swansea via Bristol and – it says – Bath stands to benefit from the 7.5 billion modernisation of the Great Western Railway and promises that ‘huge care will be taken to ensure that the electrified rail route protects the special status of the City of Bath and its listed buildings.’

Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens
Artists impression of electrified route through Sydney Gardens

The Company has outlined how it plans to ensure that electrification will open the way for a new generation of electric intercity trains serving Bath from 2017, resulting in more seats, more leg room, more tables and a reduction in journey times.

It says the scheme ¬†‘will also deliver a greener and quieter railway, with fewer emissions released into the atmosphere and a reduction in the noise as electric trains replace the existing diesel ones.

To deliver this, we are doing a package of works in preparation for the electrification of the Bath railway corridor, with the majority of the work completed at night to ensure trains operate as normal for passengers.

Work which cannot be completed at night and which will affect the City of Bath are to be combined during a six week period from mid-July to the end of August 2015 with work completed in two main phases during that time.

sydney gardensThe first three week phase will affect only the immediate Box Tunnel area (near Corsham) but the second three week phase also requires the closure the entire railway immediately east of Bath station and the direct route to Trowbridge.

By maximising work over a six week period it will be completed with the minimum possible level of disruption to passengers. We will also use the closure to complete other work that was due to be undertaken in the Bath area over the coming years.

The work is planned for the summer of 2015 as it has to be sequenced between work at Reading and Bristol and to avoid bat and newt breeding seasons. There will be some further work needed in 2016 west of Bath that will require further changes to train services over some weekends, but on a smaller scale.

The work to be completed in summer 2015 include:

Lowering the track in Box Tunnel and installing electrification equipment.
Aligning the track at Bath Spa station to reduce the stepping gap between the train and the platform, while also extending platforms to make them longer and larger.
Installing specially designed electrification equipment in Sydney Gardens, in recognition of its unique status as a World Heritage Site.

Huge care will be taken to ensure that the electrified rail route protects the special status of the City of Bath and its listed buildings.
We’re working with First Great Western, Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bath Tourism Plus to ensure that the approach to electrifying the railway through Bath is done in a way that ensures minimum disruption to rail users and visitors to the city.

The overriding objective of all these organisations is to keep passengers on trains, wherever possible, rather than having to use coach services as the railway around Bath is modernised.

Final plans for the programme of works will be announced in autumn 2014 following dialogue with businesses, tourism representatives and rail users over the coming months.

A firm objective of all parties is to ensure that Bath remains open during these works next summer, albeit with a reduced level of service. Service provision measures currently under consideration to manage the impact these works will have on the people living in Bath and its visitors could include:

Ensuring commuters and off peak passengers can travel by train by keeping the rail route west of Bath open throughout the improvement works, so that a reduced service from Bath Spa to London Paddington and Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads and Cardiff Central can operate.
Keeping passengers on trains that normally travel through Bath Spa by diverting services where at all possible.
Implementing a high quality coach service between Bath Spa and Chippenham, Trowbridge and Westbury which would operate at the same frequency as rail services, connecting passengers with onward train services at those stations.
Easing ticket restrictions to enable passengers to use alternative rail routes.
Allowing car park season ticket holders to use car parks at alternative train stations.
These proposals will be refined following a review of passenger journeys made at Bath Spa this summer and consultation with user groups.

A number of bridges and structures along this route will be affected by the Great Western electrification programme.

This list is not comprehensive and only includes bridge and structure works approved by the Council.

No closures are scheduled yet.’