Infrastructure capable of supporting 140mph running and plans for additional capacity are the main thrusts in the invitation to tender for the Great Western franchise, published on July 27.
Some of the projects outlined in the ITT include enhancing the existing electrical infrastructure between North Pole and Airport Junction for 125mph running, designing electrical infrastructure that will facilitate future 140mph running between Airport Junction and Bristol Parkway, reinstatement of two additional tracks between Lawrence Hill and Filton Abbey Wood, construction of a fourth platform at Bristol Parkway and increasing capacity, probably by reinstating the two platforms in the Digby Wyatt shed, at Bristol Temple Meads.
Network Rail has been told by the DfT to ensure that electric services can commence between London, Oxford and Newbury by December 2016, with full-electric services to Bristol expected to commence in 2017. The infraco has also been asked to increase the line speed of the slow lines between Reading and Didcot to 125mph. Consideration will also be given to extending Paddington’s platforms 11 and 12.
The precise lines that will be electrified will be defined in GRIP 3, completion of which is expected this autumn. It is known that all main running lines, depots and depot connections between London, Oxford, Newbury, Basingstoke Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea will be electrified, along with the new depot at Reading. Sidings at Oxford, Swansea, Stoke Gifford and Cardiff will also be wired.
Electrification of goods loops, chords and reception roads will be considered on a case by case basis depending on a business case being made and the funding being available.
Also included in the ITT is the restoration of passenger services between Bristol and Portishead, as part of a new ‘Bristol Metro’, and securing the future of the once threatened Penzance to Paddington sleeper train.
The new Great Western franchise will commence in July 2013 with bids having to be in by this October and the winner being announced next March.