Dave Wood Electrification looms
Electrification of the Great Western Main Line has moved a step closer with the special train that will carry out the work being unveiled for the first time.
The 23-coach train is being built in Germany at a cost of £40 million. And it will slash years off the time needed to electrify the line.
But when the High Output Plant System train, as it is known, reaches Bristol it must then be allowed to electrify the local lines. To allow it to go away without this being done would be madness.
The train is well on its way to being completed at the works of German manufacturer Windhoff. And it is expected to come through the Channel Tunnel to this country at some point next year.
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This train will effectively build the electrification network as it goes along. It will work at night when the tracks are less busy. But we are told that services will keep running. They will be diverted on to other lines. All being well, the train will begin work on the line next year.
It will operate six nights a week, sinking up to 30 piles in each shift.
These will be used to hold up the gantries from which the overhead wires are hung.
Altogether around 17,000 piles will have to be sunk along the length of the line. When in the Bristol area in 2016/17 this state of the art train will need to be stabled at different locations away from the main line.
In the day time I should imagine a lot of maintenance work will be taking place on this factory train in order to prepare it for its next night shift.
A great deal of preparatory work will have to be carried out before the first wires appear above the lines. This includes scanning the track side for hidden power cables. This is crucial because if cables running beside the lines were damaged it may well result in signal failures leading to lengthy delays to services.
Just imagine electricity supplies to railway signals being damaged and trains left unable to run.
The work involved in electrifying this line is incredible. Take the number of bridges alone that will have to be made higher.
But whilst electrifying the main line is very important we need to keep pressing to ensure it is extended to our local lines.
I believe there will be uproar if this train is allowed to go away and the local lines have been left untouched.
I cannot state enough the importance. We simply cannot allow this to happen.
Dave Wood RMT Rail Maritime and Transport Union, Bristol
Written in a personal capacity.