Bristol to London line to be electrified
The main railway line between Bristol and London is to be electrified at a cost of £1 billion.
The work will take eight years and electric trains could be running between Bristol and London by 2017.
Electrification would speed up the journey between Bristol and London by 12 minutes.
It will also help the Government meet environmental targets because diesel-powered High Speed Trains and Cross Country Voyager trains would be replaced with a new fleet of electric ones.
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The line from London Paddington to Cardiff will be electrified, taking in Bristol Parkway station, along with the track through Bath to Bristol Temple Meads. Lines connecting Bristol Temple Meads with Bristol Parkway are also expected to be electrified.
Government transport minister Paul Clark was arriving at Bristol Parkway yesterday morning to mark the announcement.
Transport secretary Lord Adonis is due to tell the House of Lords today that work will start immediately.
The project, which is the biggest since the line designed by Brunel was built will be done in stages and cost £800,000 for every mile on the 118-mile stretch between Bristol and the capital.
It will involve installing hundreds of miles of overhead electric cables as well as alterations to tunnels, bridges and stations on the route.
The announcement comes after members of the Cabinet travelled on the route for a meeting in Cardiff.
Bristol City Council's cabinet member for transport, Jon Rogers, welcomed the news, saying there were several benefits to electrifying the line.
He said: "Many people have been lobbying for the electrification of the line and it would be great if it was confirmed.
"It would mean the route would be more environmentally friendly and allows us to move away from a dependence on fossil fuels. It also means using the railway will be cleaner, faster and generally more sustainable."
Philip Haigh, business editor at Rail magazine, believes the line will be electrified up to Temple Meads but not further south to Weston and beyond.
He said electrification would only shave a few minutes off journey times between Bristol and London.
A train journey from Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington takes about 105 minutes and travels at an average speed of 67mph, if stopping time at stations is included.
Mr Haigh said: "The trains will not be running any faster but electric trains can accelerate more quickly.
"The announcement that the line is going to be electrified means there will be a new fleet of trains, and that's good news as well. Some of the modern electric trains accelerate very well and you can notice the difference between them and diesel trains."
The Great Western route is currently only electrified for a short distance from Paddington to Heathrow airport.
Of the entire network only 40 per cent is electrified. That includes most of the South East and the line from London to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Electric trains produce 20 per cent to 30 per cent fewer carbon emissions than diesels.
They have a lower failure rate than their diesel equivalents and they are also lighter and quieter than diesel trains.
Dan Panes, spokesman for train operator First Great Western, said it was difficult to estimate how much time would be cut from journeys on the electrified line.
He said: "It will depend on the specification of the line, how the new lines work with the existing infrastructure and what sort of trains will be running on the line."
In a strategy document released in May, Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher said: "The consensus for expanding our electrified network is growing. Electric trains are not only better for the environment but are quieter and smoother for passengers... They are more reliable and often faster.
"Further electrification will also help open up more diversionary routes so that we can keep people on trains and off buses as we carry out planned rail improvement work."
Simon Horsborough, spokesman for the Department for Transport, refused to confirm if the announcement would take place today. He said: "All we can say is that we will make an announcement in due course."