Network Rail has appointed a joint team of Atkins and Parsons Brinckerhoff as Lead Design Organisation (LDO) and System Integrator for the electrification of the Great Western Mainline.

The contract will prepare the route between London and Cardiff for the introduction of Intercity Express trains in 2017, and is one of the first parts of Network Rail’s £10bn UK-wide electrification programme to be delivered.

The project will involve electrifying approximately 1,000km of railway and installing some 20,000 overhead line support structures along a route which passes through 26 local authorities and a World Heritage site, and which interfaces with at least eight other significant railway projects.

Douglas McCormick, managing director of Atkins’ UK rail business, said: “Electrification is vital for the UK railway network. It will enable greater capacity, shorter journey times, less maintenance, lower energy costs and will boost the economy by providing better connections between towns and cities. As one of Network Rail’s first major electrification schemes, this project will give the Atkins / Parsons Brinckerhoff team the opportunity to lead the industry and develop best practice.”

Atkins and Parsons Brinckerhoff will design the overhead line equipment and power systems to electrify the route and provide engineering assurance throughout construction.

Russell Jackson, LDO project director from Atkins, said: “The joint team will take on the challenge of integrating all engineering systems into the design process and will coordinate with other projects along the route to make sure the whole railway system is successfully enhanced. We’re proud and excited about our role as integrator and designer for such an important, complex and high profile programme. Critical to project success will be collaboration between all parties; working together as one team with common goals.”

The work will also involve the modification of platforms and bridges and the lowering of track where necessary. It will present significant challenges for planning and consents, particularly around Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which will involve close collaboration with Network Rail and key stakeholders to preserve the area’s environment and heritage.

Darren Reed, head of rail UK/Europe at Parsons Brinckerhoff said: “We are delighted to be selected by Network Rail as its engineering partner to meet the exciting challenge of electrifying Brunel’s Great Western Railway. The combined strength of Atkins and Parsons Brinckerhoff creates a market leading electrification design and engineering capability, and it is an area in which we both continue to invest heavily to meet future anticipated industry demand.”