Losing steam?

Things are getting a little behind as far as the electrification of the Great Western main rail line to London is concerned.

The Virtual Museum maintains a healthy interest in this major engineering project because of the impact the arrival of the steel gantries and overhead electrification wires will have on the fabric of our historic city.

The railway runs through Sydney Gardens. It was designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who deliberately ‘opened-up’ his park-side rail-track intrusion so people could view these steam-belching wonders of the Victorian industrial age.

TPOD 2-  Bath stakeholder event presentation-2 (dragged)
Possible look of the gantries through Sydney Gardens.

Network Rail hold regular ‘drop-in’ sessions in Bath for the public to catch up on current developments.

My discussions at a recent ‘consultation’ were definitely informal – but I am hearing that technical and design issues are being blamed for taking some of the steam out of this multi-billion pound operation to upgrade one of the country’s oldest and busiest rail routes.

In fact, Great Western’s new and expensive rolling stock is likely to be seen running through Bath before the overhead lines can be switched on.

Of course, First Great Western have recently re-branded to GWR and a new colour and logo for their rolling stock!

network rail
The new ‘GWR’ livery for the electric engines.

It’s good to hear they are buying some bi-modal units. It means they are dual-powered and can switch to diesel when there is no overhead electric power to connect to.

TPOD 2-  Bath stakeholder event presentation-2 (dragged) 1
Overhead gantries and new rolling stock!

Ironically –  it seems – the units are more expensive, less efficient and less environmentally sound than the electric-only units.

Electrification is due to be taken through Bristol and across to Cardiff and beyond – so these dual-powered engines are going to have to be used for some time.

I am hearing we won’t be seeing any gantry construction through Bath this year.

Another spectator event we probably won’t be seeing this year involves Brunel’s last remaining iron footbridge on the Great Western route – which can be crossed in Sydney Gardens.

It is due for removal and restoration before being replaced in its original position. Though it will have to be modified for safety reasons.

Sydney Gardens OLE 3-D Visualisation web
Artists impression of how Sydney Gardens could look with a modified Brunel pedestrian crossing!

That is an operation that also seems to be scheduled for 2017.

Network Rail’s main website says the whole Great Western rail electrification scheme is now due for completion by 2020.

However, it also still states that the line to Bristol will be completed by 2016 and to Cardiff in 2017!

Things have gone too far for any cancellation or shelving of the giant project – the biggest construction operation since Brunel built the line -but l have a feeling rail users are going to need patience and fortitude in the months and years ahead.

Certainly they will need such attributes of character in April when the direct line between Bristol and Bath is to close for engineering works with diversions planned to keep the rail service and city link operational.  More about that soon!