Steel piling is providing a firm foundation for the overhead lines that will ultimately see one of Britain’s oldest rail routes become electrified.

The Great Western runs from South Wales to Paddington and is not only one of the oldest routes in the country, but is also one of the busiest.

Despite its high level of traffic, the route can only be used by diesel locomotives, as there are no overhead electricity cables to allow electric trains to run.

Network Rail are carrying out the necessary work to update the track to modern standards, with steel piling driven into the ground to support the gantries that, in turn, run the overhead lines from which the trains take their power.

“Piling is a method used to install foundations,” Network Rail stated in recently issued guidance on the project. “There are different types of piling; where possible, we use vibration piling because of the reduced impact it has on our neighbours.

“Sometimes we have to hammer in the piles if they haven’t been driven to the required depth using the vibration method because of tough ground conditions. This can be a noisier process which we try to avoid and only use when essential.”

To electrify the track, a gantry must be constructed – complete with its underpinning steel piling – every 50 metres along the route.

Each gantry helps to support the overhead line equipment, or OLE, which secures the electricity wires in place.

Along the route, a mains electricity supply is then linked to these cables to make sure there is an adequate supply within the wires at all points along the track.

Ultimately this supplies electricity to the trains themselves – which should eventually allow diesel trains to be retired from the route, in favour of the more eco-friendly and efficient electric trains.