The first electric-only train to go to and from south Wales has been run by Great Western Railway. The train operator carried out a test run in the early hours of Saturday, using a 12-car Class 387 to run electric-only from Swindon to Cardiff. It is the first time an Electrostar has passed into Wales since Network Rail completed electrification of the Severn Tunnel in June last year.
A 12-car Class 387 has more than 700 seats and GWR says it is their ambition to run them alongside its Intercity Express Trains to meet demand to and from Cardiff for major events like the Six Nations Rugby Championship and big-ticket events at the Principality Stadium.
GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: "This is a long-term ambition, to help provide additional capacity when ‘big-ticket’ items in the city require it. The pandemic has obviously slowed the need for such services, but we have been working closely with our colleagues at Network Rail to be able to fulfil this ambition. "Our IET fleet has always been capable of coping with the majority of demand on the Cardiff to London corridor for these events – the benefit of using 387s is that we can provide more seats without having to reduce IET services elsewhere to provide them."
Network Rail’s Wales and Border route director Bill Kelly said: "Delivering electrification through the Severn Tunnel last year was a huge achievement for Network Rail and has resulted in thousands of extra seats, more frequent services and quicker and greener journeys for passengers as they travel to and from South Wales. It is great to see GWR has moved another step closer to providing an additional, all-electric passenger service for large-scale events in Cardiff off the back of our electrification work."
GWR ran electric trains to and from South Wales for the first time in January last year, with its IET fleet switching to diesel to pass through the Severn Tunnel before electrification of that section was completed in June last year.