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Electric hope for commuter trains; Feasibility study into replacing old diesel engines.

Byline: Rhodri Clark

SOUTH Wales commuters could enjoy quicker electrified trainjourneysandcleaner stations - even if the Government refuses to electrify the mainline to London.

The organisation that owns Britain's railway lines has launched a feasibility study into electrifying several of the key commuter routes into Cardiff Queen Street. Train travellers would benefit from quicker trips on the Rhymney, Merthyr and Treherbert lines, as well as the Aberdare to Barry and Penarth lines by the end of the decade if the scheme goes ahead.

Network Rail's Mike Gallop said the organisation believedelectrifying linescould pay for itself as the trains were 50% cheaper and there would be less wear on the tracks due to electric trains being lighter. He said there could be significant cuts in journey times because electric trains are quicker to accelerate and brake.

Stations would also be cleaner as electric trains are quieter and do not emit exhaust fumes.

Commuter lines that also use the South Wales mainline into Cardiff Central, including the Ebbw Vale and Maesteg lines, are not included as they could only be electrified if the London route is also electrified.

MrGallup said:"Byaround 2018 or 2019 diesel fleets on the Valley Lines are due to be replaced, and this offers an opportunity to consider electric trains as an option."

Itwas too early to saywhen electrificationmighthappen, but he added: "It would make sense to coincide with the replacement of trains on the Valley Lines. Generally, electrification can pay for itselfwhenthe whole-life costs of both trains and track are taken into account."

Network Rail aims to complete its initial Valley Lines study by the summer and expects the research to help ministers in Cardiff Bay and Westminster decide on future investment.

WE SAY WHILE the seemingly endless debate rages in Westminster over whether to electrify the main line into and through Wales, Network Rail has launched its own feasibility study into upgrading regional routes.

The company, of course, is to be congratulated. Everyone - apart from the coalition Government in Westminster - is agreed on the benefits electrification can bring. Let's hope the study convinces the Assembly this is the best way to upgrade an ageing diesel fleet.

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Commuter travel between Cardiff and the Valleys would be boosted if rail electrification plans go ahead PICTURE: Patrick Olner
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 10, 2011
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