Electrification scrapped – literally

Heavy duty structures: GWR Electrostar Nos 387153/166 arrive at Twyford with the 09.48 Reading to London Paddington service on 18 January 2017. Ken Brunt
Scrap for sale: steelwork at Wroughton Airfield

Back in December, Network Rail issued a notice inviting tenders for approximately 1,000 tonnes of steel masts, booms and struts plus other materials. There were photographs of the steelwork in store at Wroughton Airfield, which revealed the ‘scrap’ to be Series 1 Overhead Line Equipment – as being installed, gradually, under the Great Western Electrification Programme (GWEP).

Network Rail has now replaced the nuclear-blast-proof Series 1 with the allegedly cheaper Master Series (‘Informed Sources’, November 2017). But with GWEP ongoing, that doesn’t explain the sell-off.

So I asked Network Rail what was going on. Apparently, the masts and other components being sold for scrap are spares. They represent 4% of the steel procured to complete the London to Cardiff electrification. ‘We want to realise as much value as we can from the spare stock and this is what this sales notice will achieve’ a spokesman told me. Scrap steel currently fetches around £100 per tonne.