Network Rail engineers are busy preparing for the electrification of the Severn Tunnel at a state-of-the-art training facility in Wales.
The 130-year-old Severn Tunnel will close for six weeks from 12 September to prepare it for electrification, a critical milestone in the project to deliver electric trains for passengers in South Wales, part of Network Railâ€™s Railway Upgrade Plan.
The training facility at Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw, jointly funded by the College and Welsh Government, comprises of a life size mock-up of the overhead line equipment that will be used to power the new fleet of electric trains through the tunnel.
Network Rail is working in partnership with ABC and AMCO and supported by McGinley Support Services, to deliver the training which enables engineers to build, dismantle and maintain the overhead power lines and specialist equipment unique to the Severn Tunnel electrification project.
It is the only facility in the UK to offer training on this specially-designed piece of equipment known as a Rigid Overhead Conductor Rail, which will help power trains through the narrow tunnel.
During the six-week closure, 200 members of Network Railâ€™s orange army will be working day and night to install over eight miles of conductor rail.
Dan Tipper area director at Network Rail Wales said: â€œThis is a great example of working together with our suppliers which is so important to the success in delivering this key milestone in the project to electrify the South Wales Mainline. This training facility allows our engineers to train in a safe environment, gaining new qualifications and fully preparing them for the unique work they will be undertaking this autumn to prepare the Severn Tunnel for electrification, providing faster, greener and quieter services for the growing number of passengers that use the railway.â€
Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James said: â€œColeg y Cymoedd delivers first class training in a first class facility, ensuring there is a skilled workforce to deliver the major improvements Walesâ€™ rail infrastructure will see over the next five years. When the facility in Nantgarw, opened in September last year, we knew our Â£1.54m investment would be put to the best possible use.Network Rail, with support from the Welsh Government, will spend more than Â£1bn modernising the rail system in Wales. The fact we can support Network Rail in this way as it moves into its new era is something of which we can be rightly proud.â€
Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: â€œThe College could expand off the back of the electrification programme. We’ve got four campuses across Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly and the Rail centre at our Nantgarw campus is easily accessible from the M4.Â I’ve already started discussions within the college as to whether or not in the next year or two we might even consider expanding. If the growth continues at the speed it is, I can see us having to put on an extension in the future.â€