£25m to rescue Newport-Gloucester railway line ravaged by climate change

  • From tackling landslides to fighting flooding - how are Network Rail and Transport for Wales dealing with the effects of climate change? Watch the report from ITV Wales reporter Mike Griffiths

A railway line which connects South Wales with England is receiving a cash boost to "rescue" it from the effects of climate change.

Network Rail has announced £25m for works on the Newport-Gloucester line connecting South Wales with the West Country, Midlands and north of England.

The route, which runs along the Severn Estuary, is exposed to rain, wind and sea and more frequent extreme weather has seen the line devastated by five major landslips in the last two years alone.

This has led to extended closures of the railway and temporary speed restrictions, delaying more than 200,000 trains.

Work on the line is due to begin in summer 2022. Credit: Network Rail

Bill Kelly, route director, Network Rail Wales and Borders said: "We’ve seen a huge increase in extreme weather events across our network in recent years.

"Climate change is happening here and now, and across Wales and Borders - from the Conwy Valley to the Welsh marches and Severn Estuary - we’re responding by building a more resilient railway.

"As well as saving taxpayers’ money and reducing delays for passengers and freight – we’re protecting this vital Welsh transport link for generations to come."

The Newport-Gloucester line runs along the Severn Estuary. Credit: Network Rail

As well as disrupting passengers, essential freight services are affected, with 43 freight trains passing through every week, moving; steel, petrol, and construction materials. The route also serves ‘Tesco trains’, keeping supermarkets stocked with essential supplies.

"This is one the busiest and most important freight routes in Wales and Borders, so it’s really important to the economy," said Jess Lippett, senior route freight manager, Network Rail Wales & Western.

"As we saw through the pandemic, this route really is a lifeline, and the current shortage in HGV drivers means it’s playing an even more vital role.

"People are amazed when I tell them that a single freight train keeps 70 or more lorries off Britain’s congested road network. With carbon emissions 76% lower, rail freight is also making a significant contribution to meeting the climate change challenge."

Work on the line is due to begin in summer 2022 and will include the removal of more than 30,000 tonnes of material from the cliff face.

A mesh and bolt system will then be installed alongside three miles of track, stabilising the rockface and preventing landslips from affecting the track below.