Friday, 04 December 2020

Henley branch line electrification delayed

ELECTRIFICATION of the Henley branch line is likely to be put back by at least a year.

ELECTRIFICATION of the Henley branch line is likely to be put back by at least a year.

The delay, which many people had predicted, was confirmed by a Network Rail representative at a meeting in Maidenhead.

Kevin Miller said the electrification of the whole Great Western main line between London and Bristol had been put back.

He said electric trains were now due to start running on the branch line in the second half of 2018 rather than December 2017, as originally planned.

This was partly due to problems with a factory train which was digging and planting the piling along the line.

The process, which is supposed to be four times faster than the traditional method, was struggling to deal with the soil, which is a different type to that at the testing facility, he said.

Patricia Mulcahy, who chairs the Henley Branch Users Group and attended the meeting on July 18, said: ?The electrification is running behind.

?There is an issue with the piling which isn?t working as fast as they hoped because the ground is a different type of soil.

?The Department for Transport is prioritising the electrification of the main line but as yet there?s no certainty that the electrification of the branch line will even happen.

?The delays in the programme will have a knock-on effect on the rolling stock and costs are rising.

?We expressed concerns about the continuation of the current rolling stock and we have agreed to get all the branch lines together to lobby our local MPs.?

Michael Porter, who represents Wargrave on the user group, said the factory train also needed to erect masts and wires on top of the piling but that should run to schedule as it was above ground.

He said: ?Digging into the soil is the thing they have had all sorts of problems with so putting in the vertical piles is taking a lot longer than they planned for.?

A Network Rail spokeswoman refused to confirm there would be any delay but admitted the current programme was ?undeliverable? and a report was being prepared for submission to the Government later this year.

In a statement, the company said: ?Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin made a speech last month in which he stated that the Great Western electrification programme is a priority project and two electrification projects in the North have been put on hold to ensure it is delivered.

?In the same speech he said that Network Rail?s programme of work is undeliverable in its current form and will be reviewed over the summer.

?The Great Western programme is one of the projects included in this review.

?At the present time we are continuing to work to our original timescales but information around timescales can only be confirmed once the findings of this review are published in the autumn.? Mr Porter said: ?A lot depends on what is said in the report but I can?t believe it will include anything different to what we were told at the meeting.

?Kevin Miller has promised to come back and give us a further briefing in November, which I imagine will be based on what Network Rail says in the report.?

Henley MP John Howell said: ?This is the first I?ve heard of a delay but it will give Network Rail the chance to get electrification through the Thames Valley right and take into account other features of the project.

?From that point of view it is welcomed but I would be surprised if the delay is that long.?

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