Posted 16th May 2016 | 13 Comments

Network Rail set to replace 'sensitive' electrification

A STRETCH of recently installed electrification gantries on the Great Western Main Line is set to be replaced in response to vigorous environmental objections, but Network Rail has yet to confirm that funding will be available.

The project to electrify the route between London, Bristol and Cardiff is already running seriously behind schedule, but work recently completed through the Goring Gap in Oxfordshire may have to be torn down and replaced.

Residents in Goring and the nearby village of South Stoke have been protesting since last year, although a Parliamentary petition failed to attract more than 1,200 signatures -- well below the minimum of 10,000 needed before the government must respond.

The affected stretch of four track main line runs through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and Network Rail has revealed that it has given specialists a 'high level brief' in a bid to evolve an alternative design. However, a spokesman told Railnews that any replacements 'must meet our specifications around reliability, safety, and efficiency'.

According the local Railway Action Group, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has now written to the Conservation Boards of the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs AONBs saying: "I also re-affirm that should the outcome of the design options and the public consultation highlight that Network Rail should undertake retrospective works to alter or replace the installed apparatus, Network Rail intends to undertake such works as are necessary, subject to costs and the agreement of funding”.

It is not yet clear when the work might be done, but Network Rail added that it was seeking replacement equipment which would be 'more aesthetically pleasing'.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Duncan, Watford

    There's a big "if" at the end of Mark Carne's statement quoted above - "subject to costs and the agreement of funding".

  • Russell Russell, Pangbourne

    The present gantries are like an army of ugly old bridges all along the valley, totally unnecessary ugliness, worse than power pylons, wind turbines or cellnet masts which do try to look nice nowadays. Tear them down as soon as possible, much clumsier than any others put up anywhere in Europe in last 20 years.

  • James palma, London.


    Those whingers should pay for any replacement

  • Mark, Epsom

    The hidden reason this is being done is to develop a new design that the government can show to HS2 opponents and say 'we listened and designed this'.

    This could be a big opportunity to truly design something special and distinctive which adds to the environment picture and can be exported. We are good at this when given the time and money to do it.

  • Christopher Hamilton, Carluke

    Would this have been considered anywhere else outside the Home Counties?
    I seriously doubt it.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    I live very near Goring Gap and go down every day to watch the progress between Tilehurst and Didcot. Yes the Gantries do look a bit ugly, but I'm surprised how I have just got used to the Gantries being there over the last year. At first to me they looked garish but now I accept it as if its always been there. I presume that the Gantries will also weather and mellow over time, but Goring Gap is well known for its expensive properties and density of top Bank Managers. Of course if Network Rail install some 'nice' environmentally friendly ones, residents on the rest of the line will want them as well.

  • Jimmy Austin, Thame

    They could have been a bit more inspiration in the design. It's just a bit utilitarian.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire

    I wonder whether their predecessors created such a stink when Brunel first built his Great Western RaiIway. Somehow I doubt it or none of our railway system would ever have been built. The same applies to HS2 through the Chilterns of course. In those days it was all about making money, which is where the residents of those areas would have been ready with their purses at the ready!

  • Roland Harmer, Bristol

    It is interesting that the design could have been better and available, so why wasn’t it used in the first place? British Rail developed an elegant and relatively unobtrusive system of head spans for multiple tracks, could’t that have been made to work? Compare the overhead on the East Coast main line with dog’s breakfast that is on the line south of Crewe.

    Yes the galvanised steel will weather down, but ugly and brutal structures will never blend in. It is a high price to pay for something that is very desirable - electric traction.

    The thought of more track, past Dawlish and other beautiful areas, around Temple Meads, being desecrated with this type of equipment appals.

    It is encouraging that Network Rail appear to be having second thoughts.

  • Bill Dickson, Millom

    Its called optioneering and is a 'nice to have'. When any of the new structures have been weathered for a couple of years, they'll blend in as well as any no matter what design.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    I suppose a Council Tax precept in these places could fund this requirement!


    They are pretty ugly though

  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    They're only gantries which hold the wires in place, and if they weren't up to the required environmental standard, they wouldn't have been installed in the first place. Residents are basically kicking up a fuss about something and nothing.