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 Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan.
The training facility at Coleg Y Cymoedd in Nantgarw, jointly funded by the college and the Welsh Government, has a life-sized 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 contractors ABC and AMCO, and supported by McGinley Support Services, to deliver the training that 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 Britain to offer training on this specially designed piece of equipment known as a rigid overhead conductor rail, which will help to power trains through the narrow tunnel.
"This 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 Main Line.
"This training facility allows our engineers to train in a safe environment, gaining new qualifications, and fully prepares 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." Dan Tipper, area director at Network Rail Wales.
During the six-week closure, 200 members of Network Rail’s orange army will be working day and night to install over eight miles of conductor rail.
"The 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.
"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." Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd
"Coleg y Cymoedd delivers first-class training in a first-class facility, ensuring there is a skilled workforce to deliver the major improvements Wales’ rail infrastructure will see over the next five years. When the facility in Nantgarw opened in September last year, we knew our £1.54m investment would be put to the best possible use.
"Network Rail, with support from the Welsh Government, will spend more than £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." Julie James AM, Minister for Skills and Science
About Network Rail
Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.6bn journeys by rail every year - double the number of 1996 - and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We’re investing £38bn in the railway by 2019 to deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.