It’s fair to say Bath’s two rather narrow railway station platforms – serving trains to and from the capital – can get pretty crowded at times.
Well one off-shoot of the work this summer to prepare the line through the city for electrification is that they are going to get bigger and will be built out to meet the newly-aligned track.
You’ll have the chance to get used to the overhead power cable that will be suspended above it – and that’s something that is going to bring a bit of disruption to normal routes for a time in July and August as the rail bed is lowered in places like Sydney Gardens and Box Tunnel.
Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel – who built the Great Western Railway – could not have known what would eventually replace steam as the means of propelling his trains and there is no room in the tunnel for overhead cables – without reducing the level of the floor.
Sydney Gardens also presents a problem as bridges are ‘listed’ as being of historical importance and cannot be ‘re-built’ so – again – the track has to be lowered. Network Rail are also going to reduce the level of the ground bordering the low parapet wall – which is alongside the track as it runs through the park – but don’t worry because they will not be creating a ditch for people to fall into in the dark. A grass-covered bank will be reformed to slope gently into it.
Only 3 non-listed bridges in Bath are being demolished and reconstructed are non listed. The mock up therefore will not apply.
My Network Rail contact tells me that over bridge parapets need modifying if they are less than 1.85m high.
The Company is required to ensure that all parapets are of a solid design to 1.55m and then it can use a perforate mesh for the remaining 300mm.
My contact told me: ‘In Bath we will not be replacing listed parapets in their entirety. We are seeking to do as little modification as possible in order to achieve required safety standards. The footbridges in Sydney Gardens are a special case again!
We can apply to the ORR ( Office of Rail Regulators) for derogation (ie. reduced heights) for exceptional circumstances, such as the iron footbridge and the low balustrade wall.’
Obviously the hope is that the Office of Rail Regulation will agree to a lower level – both alongside the track – and on the listed bridges crossing the line through Sydney Gardens – so people can still watch rail traffic passing through. Something Brunel deliberately featured in his initial track design.
Meanwhile l hear Network Rail have a wildlife expert with the cutting crews who are working their way along the embankments clearing vegetation.
This is going to take many months but they will be looking out for – and protecting – trees with bird nests.
Another little bit of information. First Great Western’s changeover to a new look colour and logo is going to be gradually rolled out.
From late autumn you may even seen staff at Paddington wearing the new uniforms.
No prizes for spotting the first engine bearing the new GWR logo but do send me a photo!