Keynsham trains 'will get extra capacity' despite electrification delay

Published on: 03 Dec 2016

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The decision to halt work on electrifying the rail line between Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads will not delay the introduction of extra capacity on trains serving Keynsham, says Great Western Railway.

As parts of the multi-billion scheme to upgrade the route between Cardiff and London hit the buffers last month, GWR told passengers it would still be delivering planned improvements to services by 2019.

This includes extra capacity on the existing diesel trains calling at Keynsham by adding additional carriages from the London Thames Valley fleet, which is currently undergoing an upgrade.

A new fleet of hybrid Intercity trains will also still be introduced to serve Bristol and Bath, which can operate on both diesel and electrified lines and will cut around 15 minutes off journey times to London.

A GWR spokesman said: “Customers will be disappointed at these further delays to parts of the electrification programme even following Sir Peter Hendy’s review earlier this year.

“However, we are determined our customers should not wait a day longer than absolutely necessary to see the benefits they’re expecting from what will be the biggest fleet upgrade in a generation.”

Rail minister Paul Maynard announced last month that he would be deferring four electrification projects along the Great Western route, including between Oxford and Didcot Parkway, Filton Bank (Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads),  Thames Valley Branches (Henley and Windsor)  and west of Thingley junction, which affects the Bath Spa to Temple Meads line and Keynsham.

To prepare for electrification, Keynsham station was closed for nine days in April to allow Network Rail engineers to work around the clock to lower the track to create enough room
for the overhead power lines and to carry out work on the platforms. Improvements to the shelters were also carried out this year.

The project had already been hit by rising costs and delays and, following the Hendy review, the programme had been “placed on a more efficient footing”, said Mr Maynard.

He said the decision to defer the four Great Western projects had been taken “because we can bring in the benefits expected by passengers – newer trains with more capacity – without requiring costly and disruptive electrification works”.

The deferral would free up between £146 million to £165 million to be spent on improvements, he said.

But local Liberal Democrats said they were dismayed by the decision to pull the plug on electrification to Bristol and Bath.

Cllr Neil Butters, Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson in B&NES, said: “Bath, not to mention Bristol, is being treated as if it were on a minor branch line. The Government should think again, back Network Rail to finish the job, and let us have the all-electric trains, with their faster acceleration, lower carbon footprint and reduced air pollution we were originally promised.”

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