Infrastructure insights: electrification

Electrification means faster, quieter trains that are better for the environment, and supports economic growth in Britain.

We’re working closely with the Department for Transport, train companies and other stakeholders to deliver significant electrification projects as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.

Electric trains are not only faster than diesel trains, with superior braking and acceleration to give shorter journey times, but they also have more seats than diesel trains of the same length.

They are good news for people living near the railway because they are also quieter and better for the environment, with carbon emissions 20 to 35 per cent lower than those from diesel trains. No emissions at the point of use means better air quality in pollution hot spots such as city centres.

Find out more about the benefits of electrification and our electrification projects

How we electrify the railway

Safety is our priority when working on any part of our railway infrastructure or installing new equipment. We take the utmost care to ensure the safety of our workers, lineside neighbours and rail users at all times.

Our approach to safety

Delivering electricity to trains requires overhead line equipment (OLE) – overhead wires and supporting structures to carry the wires above the railway. We need to install these to electrify a railway line.

Before work can begin, we need to complete a vast amount of design and preparation work. Installing foundations to support the OLE – a process we call ‘piling’ – is part of this. Once the cylindrical steel piles have been installed for the foundations, we then begin to erect trackside posts and overhead wires.

Piling involves driving the piles deep into the ground, and is usually done at night-time on weekdays and weekends. We’re aware of the inconvenience that this can cause our lineside neighbours and do everything we can to minimise disruption. For safety reasons, work of this type must be carried out while trains are not running, and under our licence conditions we are contractually obliged to work at times that cause the least disruption to train services.

Other work we may need to do before installing the overhead line equipment includes removing vegetation from the railway and rebuilding bridges to accommodate the wires beneath.

More about the piling process and how we electrify the railway

Find out about the unique HOPS train that’s helping us electrify the Great Western Mainline