Government applying brakes to West rail electrification

Looks like Bath can still look forward to the continued electrification programme being carried out on the railway line between the city and Paddington, London – despite the rest of the route onto Bristol being deferred by the government.

A view of Bath Spa station as it might look after electrification has been completed.

The £2.8bn pound project was meant to electrify the route from London through to Cardiff by 2918 and the scheme has already been delayed.

Though things will still go ahead, the Department of Transport has not confirmed when the work will be finished.

Rail MInister Paul Maynard said deferring the electrification of some routes would free up millions to be used to deliver ‘additional benefits to passengers.’

network rail

Bath MP Ben Howlett says he is disappointed about the Bath to Bristol deferrment.

‘This would have been a great benefit for commuters and those wishing to travel between the cities. However, I am pleased that we will still see electrification from London to Bath. This should bring jobs, investment and new growth opportunities to the city.

‘I have spoken this morning to Network Rail following the electrification announcement and they have assured me that the new trains are still on track for delivery next year. When the trains reach Thingley Junction they will go into bi-mode for the remainder of the journey.  Given new funding is available 2019-2024 I expect full electrification by then.

Network Rail also assured me this morning that these changes will not affect the planned reduction in journey times the new trains are set to bring and therefore Bath residents should still have shorter journeys to London next year.

I will be continuing to press the West of England devolved authority to look at new ways to fund the improvements sooner than the current proposals and will be asking the Minister for assurances.’

He has also released the letter – to him and other MP’s affected  on the route – from Paul Maynard.

Dear Colleague,

From the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Paul Maynard MP

Great Minster House 33 Horseferry Road London

Web site:

8 November 2016

I am writing to update you on the programme of rail investment in the Great Western route and the steps we are taking to ensure this improves services for passengers. As this will directly affect your constituency, I wanted to share with you the statement that is being laid in the House today.

We are continuing to invest £2.8bn in this electrification programme to provide faster journeys, more services, and better stations while providing new or upgraded trains for passengers, with thousands more seats, and increasing capacity for freight. From 2017 the new fleet of 57 state of the art Intercity Express Trains will be introduced on the Great Western Main lines. This will significantly enhance the travel experience of passengers from London to South Wales and the South West of England. It will improve passengers’ experience on over 100 million rail journeys each year, stimulating economic growth from London through the Thames Valley, to the Cotswolds, West Country and to South Wales.

network railThe modernization of the Great Western Main Line is unprecedented in scale and is building on and around ageing assets in constant use. This is an ambitious and challenging undertaking, but real progress is being made in delivering it.

Projects completed successfully this year include the digital upgrade of large sections of signalling to improve reliability, the modification of over 100 bridges and structures, flood alleviation work, significant improvements to the resilience of the Oxford route and the introduction of the first Great Western electric services between Hayes & Harlington to Paddington which run between some of the busiest peak services in the country.

Works on the Severn Tunnel this autumn made vital preparation for electrification between London and South Wales. Other enabling works include the progression of electrification towards the west, further re- signalling in Bristol, Cardiff and Cornwall, improvements at Bristol Temple Meads Station, enabling works at stations throughout the route, provision of better access for disabled passengers at selected stations, and enhancements to depots from West Ealing in the east to Penzance in the west.

We have been clear that there have been difficulties with this programme. These were set out last year in the review of Network Rail’s delivery plan by Sir Peter Hendy. Following the re-planning of work that followed this review, the programme has been placed on a more efficient footing. A key part of this is the ongoing assessment of investment decisions so that passengers and taxpayers get maximum value.

As a result of this scrutiny from the Hendy review, I have decided to defer four electrification projects that are part of the programme of work along the Great Western route. The four projects being deferred are:

  1. Electrification between Oxford and Didcot Parkway
  2. Electrification of Filton Bank (Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads)
  3. Electrification west of Thingley Junction (Bath Spa to Bristol TempleMeads)
  4. Electrification of Thames Valley Branches (Henley & Windsor)

This is because we can bring in the benefits expected by passengers – newer trains with more capacity – without requiring costly and disruptive electrification works. This will provide between £146m to £165m in this spending period, to be focused on improvements that will deliver additional benefits to passengers. We remain committed to modernising the Great Western mainline and ensuring that passenger benefits are achieved.

This decision underscores the government’s approach to wider rail investment; that passenger outcomes must be delivered in conjunction with achieving the best value from every pound spent.

I hope this information will help you to explain to your constituents the reasons for this decision.



  1. Thinlgley Junction is East of Bath. From Maynard’s announcement the trains through the city won’t be picking up electricity from the overhead cables but converting it from the on-board diesel engine.

  2. As David Fox says, the announcement is misleading in that electrification will not cover Bristol to Chippenham, between which the new trains will be running on (highly polluting) diesel. In addition, the ‘deferment’ of track improvements as well as electrification between Bristol Temple Meads and Parkway means that timekeeping on the Cardiff to Portsmouth line will continue to be poor. And let’s not kid ourselves, deferment will effectively mean cancellation for the foreseeable future.

    That this news came on the day of the US election is no accident. The whole project has been grotesquely mismanaged from the start, and ministers must take a substantial slice of the blame for that. But if they think they can bury this particular piece of bad news they’ve got another think coming. Bristol and Bath have been spectacularly badly treated, and we’re not going to forget it.

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