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Pumping towards the future

We have completed a major renewal project of a historic feat engineering.  

Our teams in Wales have successfully completed replacing the pumps at Sudbrook pumping station. The station itself finished construction in 1886 and has been operational ever since.

The pumping station is vital to the railway as it keeps the Severn Tunnel operational and protects your journeys between England and South Wales.

The installation 

We only replace the 14 pumps every three decades once their design life comes to an end.  

It’s a hefty job, as each pump weighs one and half tonnes and requires lifting out of a 60 metre deep shaft.

We then have to take apart the pumps and rising tubes by hand and then reverse this process to install the replacements.

Why do we need the pumps?  

When construction began on the Severn Tunnel in the 1800s, engineers discovered a natural spring in 1879.

Their efforts were then focused on constructing a drainage system that could continuously remove millions of gallons of spring water.

And that is what Sudbrook still does today.   

The challenges

It is a huge challenge to modernise a nearly 140-year-old piece of infrastructure.  

We spoke to Peter Caulfield, the project manager, who gave us a little insight to how they overcame such challenges. He said: “We had to work with our pumping station colleagues to ensure that specific pumps were switched off during the replacement. We also had to ensure that there were enough pumps working to keep the Severn Tunnel operational, as we didn’t want to disrupt journeys.  

“The scale of the pumps was also a challenge. Thankfully the main pump house houses a 10-tonne crane that could lift the pumps out of the shafts. Our team on the ground could then remove each section from the pump house so we could get the new ones in.”

Modernising Victorian infrastructure for you 

Modernising Sudbrook is part of our broader efforts to improve and better protect your journeys between England and South Wales.  

It follows the electrification of the Severn Tunnel itself, which takes the railway beneath the Severn Estuary and significantly reduces journey times.

The new pumps will also ensure less closures of the tunnel for maintenance and improve journey reliability.  


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