NETWORK RAIL has not yet determined whether Inter-city Express (IEP) sets can operate to Pembroke Dock, although more than five years have elapsed since IEPs were confirmed as the replacements for the HSTs on the South Wales main line. One of their established duties is a summer Saturday working from London Paddington to Pembroke Dock and return, serving Tenby and other holiday areas in south Pembrokeshire.
At 26 metres, the IEP vehicles are longer than stock that has operated on the Pembroke Dock branch previously. Potential gauging issues west of Swansea were publicly raised in March 2012 by Philip Rees, a former BR Western Region chief civil engineer. Of particular note is Narberth tunnel, which curves and has a single-track bore. Mr Rees recalled that a coach approximately 21 metres long had struck the tunnel wall in the steam era after renewal works altered the alignment of the track slightly.
On 20 July, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed the main line from Cardiff to Swansea would not be electrified but said Network Rail would develop options to improve journeys for passengers in Wales. These would include direct services from Pembroke Dock to London using IEPs.
Modern Railways asked Network Rail whether Narberth tunnel would accommodate IEP vehicles. A spokeswoman responded: ‘We have been asked by the Department for Transport to investigate what work might need to be done on our railway infrastructure in order to provide direct services from Pembroke Dock to London via Carmarthen on new, state-of-the-art Inter-city Express trains. We will look into this and other options to improve journeys for passengers in Wales.’
Explaining why gauging on the Pembroke Dock branch had not yet been ascertained, she said: ‘Gauge clearance from Carmarthen to Pembroke is not in the original scope. The announcement is about new scope.’