Thames Valley: Plans For Rail Network

Network Rail has published plans to run and expand the railways up until 2019 - at a cost of £37.5 billion.

£9 billion of the investment includes electrification of the Great Western main line, leading to new trains and more seats.

It would be the biggest investment in the Thames Valley's railway since the Victorian era.

Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail route managing director, said: "This programme of investment will deliver the biggest investment in the Great Western main line since it was built 175 years ago. Managing what is essentially a Victorian railway is becoming increasingly difficult and this programme of investment will bring it firmly into the 21st century.

"The improvements will deliver huge benefits to passengers but there will inevitably be trade-offs which need to be made to deliver them. As the railway gets busier, the number of challenges increase and it becomes more complex than ever to run a reliable and cost-effective railway. As a result, we will increasingly have to balance the needs to build and renew infrastructure, run trains on time and reduce costs.

"This plan will provide a bigger and better railway for passengers and help support and drive economic growth across the Thames Valley. By the end of the decade, the Great Western main line will set the standard for 21st century rail travel in Britain and provide the capacity we need to cater for the continued increase in the popularity of rail travel."

The main projects benefiting the Thames Valley are:

Modernising signalling
o Network Rail is resignalling the Great Western main line ahead of electrification, modernising equipment which dates back to the 1960s. This work will be carried out in stages to minimise disruption. The line between Paddington and Hayes has already been resignalled and the railway in the Didcot area was resignalled in December 2012. The line from West Drayton to Maidenhead will be resignalled in 2013, Reading to Newbury in 2014 and Oxford in 2015.
o By 2015, control of all signalling between London and Bristol will be migrated to the Thames Valley signalling centre in Didcot.
o This state-of-the-art facility will eventually control all signalling in the Western route and contribute to a £250m annual saving across the railway in signalling costs
o The four-year scheme, once completed, will help to boost the performance. Around 25,000 minutes of delays on average each year on the Great Western main line are potentially caused by problems with ageing signalling equipment.

Electrification and new trains
o By December 2016, Network Rail plans to electrify the railway from Maidenhead to Newbury and Oxford
o Electrification of the Great Western main line will pave the way for electric trains which have more seats than the current diesel trains of the same length and are able to accelerate and brake more quickly, speeding up journey times.
o The new trains will be quicker, cleaner, quieter, smoother and more reliable than diesels trains. They are cheaper to operate, require less maintenance and have lower energy costs and carbon emissions than diesel trains. They are also lighter and do less damage to the track, helping to deliver a more reliable railway and reducing the need for track maintenance.

Reading
o Passengers across the Thames Valley and beyond will feel the full benefits of the £895m redevelopment of the railway in Reading in 2015 when the project is complete. This will relieve the biggest bottleneck on the Great Western main line.
o There will be five new platforms at Reading and a new viaduct to take fast trains over those on slower lines - this means faster, more reliable journeys for passengers
o The station will also have two new entrances providing better pedestrian links across the town, as well as lifts and escalators to all platforms and a wider footbridge

Crossrail
o Crossrail services will replace current Thames Valley inner suburban services (between Paddington to Maidenhead) to deliver a high-frequency service from Maidenhead through new rail tunnels below central London, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood.
o The service will offer the ability to travel direct to the West End, the City and Canary Wharf without changing trains, reducing journey times and inconvenience
o The new Crossrail services will be electrified, meaning trains will be quicker, cleaner, quieter, smoother and more reliable than diesels trains

Oxford
oNetwork Rail is working with Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council to commission an Oxford station masterplan, which will set out options for the redevelopment of the station. The aim is to deliver these improvements by 2019
o Passengers in the Oxford area are set to benefit from East-West Rail, which will reintroduce direct passenger services from Oxford to Bletchley and Milton Keynes Central. The line between Oxford and Leamington via Banbury is also set to be electrified as well as the railway between Oxford and Bedford via Bicester Town and Bletchley
oEvergreen III: Proposals by Chiltern to provide a new half-hourly London Marylebone To Oxford through the construction of a new stretch of track between the Oxford to Bicester line and the Banbury to Marylebone line just to the south of Bicester North station
oTo accommodate predicted freight and passenger growth in the Oxford area, a number of schemes are being considered including platform improvements, potential line speed improvements on the stopping lines between Reading and Didcot Parkway and bi-directional signalling between Didcot and Banbury to increase capacity

Network Rail is also working on proposals to provide a new link from the Great Western main line to Heathrow terminal 5. Potential line speed improvements on the Great Western main line between London and Bristol Parkway, and from Reading to Basingstoke, are also being examined.

NR also warned that even with the extra trains and seats this would "not be enough'' on the busy West Coast Main Line where the added capacity of the London to Birmingham HS2 high-speed rail line project - set to pass through Brackley and Wendover - was, it said, "essential''.

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