A MAJOR new depot for the electric rail line between London and South Wales is on track for completion by 2016.

The £80million maintenance depot for the Intercity Express Programme on the new Great Western Main Line is being built at Stoke Gifford to service up to 34 small trains or 16 larger ones a day.

It will operate seven days a week with maintenance work being carried out in enclosed building to reduce noise disturbance to nearby residents.

Ross Cunningham, infrastructure delivery manager for Hitachi Rail Europe, told the Gazette during a tour of the construction site: “This is a project we are incredibly proud and very excited about. It is one of the most significant programmes in the UK.

“The electric line will replace an ageing fleet and provide an enhanced passenger experience. It will be faster with a higher capacity and will be more comfortable and reliable and will be more environmentally friendly than existing trains.”

Although an existing Bristol depot will continue to serve diesel trains, Mr Cunningham said Rail Europe needed ownership of a strategic new facility.

“This new state-of-the-art depot has been designed to the highest standard and will include a 28-metre maintenance building, servicing points and cleaning roads, office space and staff accommodation.

“Since planning permission was granted in February 2012 we have enhanced the application by retaining as much material as possible on site.”

The depot is part of major infrastructure and transport programme worth £5.8billion on the Great Western and East Coast Main Lines.

It is being built by construction firm VolkerFitzpatrick, which completed a similar depot for Hitachi at Ashford in Kent.

Senior project manager Paul Lilley said the main challenge on the 6-5-hectare brown field site, which has previously been used as a recycling plant, was building a huge 500-metre -long culvert to prevent flooding on the line.

“The recent weather has proved a challenge but we have kept going,” he said. “The culvert is progressing well and should stop flooding.

“Despite the bad weather we are on target to complete the depot by the end of 2015.”

A seven-metre noise bund will protect residents from disturbance and Hitachi is paying for community improvements as part of the development including refurbishing cycle paths and installing new park benches. Students from the region’s technology colleges are being taken on as apprentices during construction. An employment strategy for the operation of the depot is still being drawn up.

Cllr Brian Allinson (Con, Stoke Gifford), the district’s transport chief, said: “Last year there was a lot of concern from residents and I travelled to Ashford where I found it hard to find a problem.

“One of the things that excites me more than anything is the reduction in long-term pollution.”