Better late than never, here’s the annual 5th January post on the TrawsCymru T5 service, only one more to go to complete the series. But before we begin this instalment I should apologise: this post is not just about the T5. It reports, at some length, on related issues across the TrawsCymru network and concludes with comments on trains.
In 2010, the Welsh Government held a consultation on their long-distance bus network, known at the time as TrawsCambria. The results suggested that extra leg room, luggage space and access to toilet facilities should be priorities for improvement. Within a year, it was announced that the network would be renamed as TrawsCymru with 12 new buses ordered for the two intended TrawsCymru launch routes; the TC1 (Aberystwyth-Carmarthen) and TC4 (Newtown-Cardiff).
…but, thankfully, not cancelled. It appears that we can breathe a sigh of relief. The troubled programme of electrification from London to Swansea (with branches to Oxford, Bristol and Newbury) will apparently go ahead in full, despite being vastly over-budget during major government spending cuts.
This news comes from the ‘Hendy Report’, the result of a review by Network Rail’s Sir Peter Hendy into re-planning Network Rail’s Investment Programme for the next few years. The majority of the Great Western electrification is now due to be completed by Dec 2018, a year later than the penultimate section (Bristol Parkway to Cardiff) was initially scheduled to complete. Swansea-Cardiff, the final section, was originally due by Dec 2018 but now will not be ready until 2019 at the earliest. The report is vague on this, and some observers have apparently interpreted this as meaning we could have to wait until 2024. They even fear that this could mean the scheme gets cancelled at a later date. Personally, although based on just one page of the Hendy report (I’ve not read the rest thoroughly), I’ve formed a more optimistic interpretation, that Swansea will be electrified in the first half of Control Period 6 (ie. by Dec 2021 at the latest).
More worrying is that the ValleyLines electrification isn’t included on that page of the Hendy report. Apparently, this is because it is subject to a separate review by the Welsh Government. If this is scrapped it will be a real shame, and will mean fewer trains can make use of the Swansea electrification (the Maesteg-Cardiff service shares the Swansea line between Bridgend and Cardiff), which may lead to the Swansea scheme being scrapped if work hasn’t started by the time a decision on the ValleyLines is made.
Meanwhile, the first of the Great Western’s 5-car Hitachi class 800 ‘Sardine Midget’ bi-mode intercity trains, which will replace the current 8-carriage INTERCITY 125 trains on non-electrified routes, has arrived at North Pole depot in London. Hitachi is building additional depots for these new trains, and hopefully the 9-car class 801 for electrified routes, near Swansea and Bristol. Within the Swansea depot there are electrification masts, probably the first in Wales. Both the class 800 and 801 trains have been procured under the Department For Transport’s ‘Intercity Express Programme’ (IEP), but it is rumoured that consideration is being given to adding more diesel engines to the class 801s, converting them to 800s, because of the delays to electrification which may mean the 801s cannot be put to use immediately on delivery.