BRITISH infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) completed electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) between Maidenhead and Didcot on December 27, enabling the start of electric services on January 2.
Great Western Railway is now operating Electrostar EMUs as far as Didcot, which alongside new Intercity Express Trains (IET), are offering an extra 4800 seats in and out of London Paddington during the morning peak, a 10% increase compared with January 2017.
According to observers, the Electrostar trains are accelerating up to 160km/h between station intervals of just six minutes, and as the sets are operating under the diesel timetable, they are being held for up to a minute at stations.
Electrification of the GWML is part of NR’s £6bn route modernisation programme, which also includes resignalling, track and infrastructure improvements.
The cost of the electrification project ballooned from £847m at the start of the project to £2.8bn as the overall cost of the modernisation plan increased by more than £2bn. The plan originally called for electrification to Swansea, but this was cancelled in July 2017, with electrification to Cardiff expected to be completed by the start of 2019. At this point the fleet of 57 bi-mode IET trains will enter service, reducing the journey time from London to Bristol by 17 minutes.