Great Western: Solving the Severn Tunnel conundrum

AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION HAS BEEN DEPLOYED BY NETWORK RAIL TO ENABLE ELECTRIC TRAINS TO LINK ENGLAND WITH SOUTH WALES

Electrification of the Great Western main line has been accomplished in stages. In June, the final stage of the current scope was achieved, and electric operation began through the Severn Tunnel linking England with south Wales.

This marks the culmination of a 10-year project. From the outset, Network Rail knew the subaqueous Severn Tunnel would present challenges – it is the longest tunnel on the UK network at four miles. It is a wet environment in which to install a high-voltage system to power trains, with over 14 million gallons of water pumped out of it every day by Sudbrook pumping station to prevent flooding. Running electric trains through a 134-year-old Victorian brick tunnel is a very different prospect to electrifying tunnels such as the Channel Tunnel and Gotthard Base Tunnel, which have been built using modern methods.

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