NETWORK RAIL’S Wales and Borders Route has embarked on resignalling the Maesteg and Ebbw Vale lines as part of its programme of renewals to be delivered in Control Period 6. Both branch lines are the subject of long-standing Welsh Government pledges to increase service frequency, but the additional infrastructure for the promised two or four trains per hour has not yet been defined by the government or Transport for Wales (TfW).

‘Work has commenced on signalling renewal schemes in the Tondu and Park Junction areas’ said a spokeswoman for the Wales and Borders Route, referring to the locations of surviving signal boxes on the Maesteg and Ebbw Vale lines respectively. ‘While the funded schemes are based on retaining current capability, Network Rail is aware of the Welsh Government’s aspirations to increase service frequency on routes serving Maesteg and Ebbw Vale and will consider how requirements for a future enhancement scheme can be safeguarded when TfW finalise their delivery strategy.’

The branch lines are some of the last areas to be tackled under the South Wales Major Resignalling. Further west, Network Rail continues to develop plans for resignalling between Cockett (in north-west Swansea) and Carmarthen. Single option design is planned to be completed this autumn, with an implementation contract due to be awarded next year. This would lead to phased commissioning dates in 2023, said the spokeswoman.

The resignalling will include the Swansea District line, which diverges from the main line at Briton Ferry and re-joins near Llanelli. Alun Cairns, the Secretary of State for Wales, has backed proposals for a new Swansea Parkway station on this route, at Felindre. The UK Government retains responsibility for Welsh rail infrastructure but not for the services which would serve the proposed station. Previous plans to resignal the Marches line between Newport and Shrewsbury have been shelved. The spokeswoman said: ‘Signalling activity on the Newport to Shrewsbury line in CP6 will focus upon life extension work, with the majority of work in the Hereford area.’

The Network Rail spokeswoman also said: ‘The £22 million renewal of the iconic Grade 2-listed Barmouth viaduct is a priority in CP6.Detailed design is ongoing. We will also renew Sudbrook Pumps, with detailed design currently ongoing and commissioning of this work in 2020.’ The pumping station east of Severn Tunnel Junction operates continuously to prevent underground watercourses flooding the Severn Tunnel. Rhodri Clark