Press release

Green light for new trains and rail electrification

£4.5 billion Intercity express programme and £704 million Great Western Main Line electrify plans give go ahead.

Scotland, Wales, northern and south west England are to get a fleet of new trains and more reliable rail links to London, creating thousands of jobs, boosting the economy and improving services for passengers, Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, announced today (1 March 2011). He gave the go-ahead for the £4.5 billion Intercity express programme (IEP) and the £704 million plans to electrify the Great Western Main Line (GWML) between Cardiff, Bristol and Didcot.

The government announced today (1 March 2011) it has decided to resume the IEP procurement and proceed with the Agility Trains (Hitachi and John Laing) consortium’s plans for replacement for the nation’s fleet of ageing intercity high speed trains. This will mean 500 new carriages which will provide 11,000 more peak-time seats for passengers, every day on the GWML and ECML

Hitachi had previously announced its intention to build a new train factory in County Durham to build the new order, creating more than 500 new jobs and securing thousands of additional jobs in sub-supplier industries in north east England, giving a further boost to Britain’s manufacturing industry. This factory is expected to be operational by 2013.

The announcement to electrify the sections between Cardiff, Bristol and Didcot builds on November’s announcement of electrification between London Paddington, Didcot, Newbury and Oxford, and will give Wales its very first main line electrified railway, cutting 17 minutes from Cardiff to London journeys and 22 minutes from Bristol to London journeys. Electric trains are not only quicker, but quieter, smoother and more reliable than diesels. They are also cleaner - producing no emissions at their point of use.

Philip Hammond said:

This is good news for jobs, passengers and the economy. Our decision to buy a new fleet of trains and electrify new lines will allow rail passengers along the Great Western and East Coast corridors to benefit from massive improvements to journey times, more seats and more reliable services.

Alongside our plans for High Speed Rail, it completes a picture of massive upgrades to our intercity rail corridors over the coming years.

Whilst this is, of course, subject to the government continuing to be satisfied that the proposal offers value for money as the commercial negotiations are concluded and that the final arrangements are compliant with the United Kingdom’s EU obligations, I expect that the first of the new trains will be in service by 2016.

Extending electrification westwards to Bristol and Cardiff will also bring all the benefits of electric trains - faster acceleration, greater comfort and cleaner, greener travel - to rail passengers in Wales and the south west.

We have also established that a strong high-level case may exist for electrifying some of the valley lines north of Cardiff. My department will now work with the Welsh Assembly Government to develop a business case for the electrification of the Cardiff valley lines.

The £4.5 billion programme will see the building of a combination of around 100 electric trains and bi-mode - diesel and electric - intercity trains which will run to Great Western Main Line stations including Oxford, Swindon, Reading, Cardiff, Swansea, Bath and Bristol and to East Coast Main Line stations such as Peterborough, York, Doncaster, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness.

The train operating companies will contribute to the design and specification of the new fleet of IEP trains in greater detail than they had before. As soon as the trains become operational passengers will see improvements to reliability and comfort.

Notes to editors

Benefits of electric trains over diesel

Electrified railways are essential to getting maximum efficiency and capacity from a modern railway.

Compared to non-electrified railways, electrified railways are:

  • faster
  • quieter
  • greener as they produce less CO2 and emit no air pollution at the trackside
  • more reliable
  • lighter and cause less wear and tear on the tracks
  • more cost-effective for carrying freight loads
  • cheaper to buy, operate and maintain

Greener journeys

Rail electrification is an important part of the department’s carbon strategy. Typically an electric train emits between 20% and 35% less carbon per passenger mile than a diesel train. This benefit will only improve as the electricity generation industry reduces its carbon levels. Electric trains also have zero emissions at the point of use, of particular benefit for air quality in pollution hot spots like city centres and mainline stations such as London Paddington.

Rail investment

Today’s announcement is part of a wider government rail strategy to meet future increases in passenger demand, promote a move from other transport modes to rail and ensure Britain has the world-class infrastructure it needs. Major projects on the agenda include the £15 billion Crossrail scheme, the £5.5 billion Thameslink modernisation and the new high speed rail link between London and the West Midlands and beyond.

The Department for Transport and Network Rail will work closely with the Welsh Assembly to develop a business case for the electrification of the Cardiff Valley Lines and to ensure that plans for electrifying the Great Western Main Line are coordinated with the Assembly’s own plans for rail rolling stock in the future Wales and Borders franchise.

Minimising disruption

Electric trains are more reliable than diesels. An electric intercity train will travel 40% further than an equivalent diesel train before a technical failure and an electric commuter train will travel well over twice as far.

Network Rail will use newly developed construction techniques which minimise the inconvenience to passengers for work on the Great Western line through utilising high-tech factory trains and extensively using overnight closures of less than 8 hours. Passenger Focus will be given a key role in representing travellers’ views throughout the work.

Intercity express programme

The Intercity express programme (IEP) has been led by the Department for Transport, with assistance from across the rail industry, since November 2005.

It seeks to replace the distinctive Intercity 125 high speed train (HST) diesel fleet procured by British Rail during the 1970s and 1980s with a new, higher capacity, more environmentally friendly train.

The IEP is independent of High Speed 2, which was set up to explore options for a new high speed line along the Intercity West Coast corridor.

Consult the original invitation to tender, train technical specification and associated procurement documents.

In 2009 Agility Trains (a consortium comprising of John Laing and Hitachi) was announced as the preferred bidder. No contracts have yet been signed.

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