Network Rail news updates

Big Push – Network Rail installs 11,000 tonne railway tunnel in UK first

An 11,000 tonne curved concrete box has been successfully pushed under the East Coast Main Line near Peterborough, in a first for UK engineering.

Over the past nine days, Network Rail teams reached this major milestone in the project to build a new tunnel at Werrington, north of Peterborough, which will enable slower moving freight trains to dive underneath the famous passenger route and use an adjacent line northwards.

Newly released time-lapse footage shows the 155-metre curved concrete box tunnel, which is heavier than the Eiffel Tower, being pushed into place at just 150cm per hour, using four hydraulic jacks.

This is the first time that a curved concrete box has been installed using this industry-leading engineering technique in the UK.

It took nine days, but using this cutting-edge technique avoided hundreds of hours of passenger disruption on this vital part of the East Coast Main Line and meant that services could continue running throughout.

Teams removed three of the tracks, lifted the overhead wires and dug out spoil from the site. Once the tunnel was eventually underneath, they then put everything back in place ready for regular services to resume. The work was carried out safely, in line with Government Covid guidance.

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “Our teams have completed this challenging piece of engineering in a creative way, which also allowed a reduced train service to continue for those who still had to travel.

“Over the nine days, we’ve made major progress on this vital project which will bring faster, more reliable journeys for passengers on the East Coast Main Line.

“I’m so proud that this project has shown itself to be one which is industry leading and that our teams have had the opportunity to use this new technique for the first time in the UK on one of the country’s most famous railway lines.”

David Horne, LNER Managing Director, said: “This essential part of the East Coast Upgrade will allow faster, more frequent LNER services between London, the North of England and Scotland by creating a new and improved route for slower trains to cross the main line. 

“We look forward to working with Network Rail on the remaining East Coast Upgrade engineering works in the first half of this year, so that we can deliver the benefits for our customers and communities of this significant investment.” 

The next stage of the project at Werrington involves work to install two new tracks inside the new tunnel and the associated signalling system, ready for it to come into use at the end of 2021.

The project is part of the £1.2billion East Coast Upgrade. Once complete, it will bring a more reliable railway with more choice for passengers, as well as faster journeys between London, the North of England and Scotland.

Further south, teams are continuing with major work to install overhead line equipment and improve the signalling in and around London King’s Cross. For this work to take place safely, there will be no trains to or from King’s Cross on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January.

Passengers travelling to or from the north on the East Coast Main Line that weekend will need to transfer at Peterborough for rail replacement coaches, which connect to Thameslink services between Bedford and St Pancras International.

People must continue to follow the latest Government guidance and stay at home, except for limited reasons. Those who must travel are strongly advised to check their journeys via National Rail Enquiries, at EastCoastUpgrade.co.uk or on their train operator’s website and allow plenty of time.

Passengers and road users to benefit from railway upgrades in Atherton

Passenger journeys are being made more reliable with railway drainage and bridge replacement work underway in Greater Manchester.

A £3m Great North Rail Project investment will see Shakerley Lane railway bridge in Atherton rebuilt and more than a mile of track drainage replaced.

This will better protect the track between Manchester and Hindley from flooding caused by heavy rainfall.

For the work to be carried out, a series of weekend railway closures will be needed, as well as the closure of Shakerley Lane.

Some train services will be diverted and buses will replace trains between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria via Walkden on:

  • Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 February 2021
  • Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 February 2021
  • Sundays 7, 14, 21 and 28 March 2021

Shakerley Lane railway bridge will be closed to the public from Monday 4 January until Friday 23 April.

Paul Hodson, head of capital delivery for Network Rail, said: “The work in Atherton as part of the Great North Rail Project will secure the future of this key Greater Manchester route for decades to come.

“As with any major project like this there will be some disruption and I’d like to thank passengers and local people for their patience.”

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern said: “This vital work being carried out by Network Rail will improve the reliability of the railway in Greater Manchester and secure it for future use for our passengers.

“We will continue to work closely with colleagues across the rail industry to minimise the impact on our customers and I’d like to thank them in advance for their patience and understanding while the work is completed. Please remember to plan journeys ahead of time and check for the latest travel information.”

Passengers are reminded to continue following government Covid safety advice when using public transport.

People can get more advice and plan their journeys at www.nationalrail.co.uk or with their train operator.

£4m Step-Free access work starting at St Mary Cray Station

Passengers, especially those with mobility issues, using St Mary Cray station in Kent will soon benefit from a £4m scheme to make access easier and more convenient.

Two new easy-access lifts are being installed and accessibility features are being installed inside and outside the station building.

The work being funded by the Department for Transport’s ‘Access for All’ programme will make the station much easier to use for passengers with mobility issues, older people and parents with young children.

The large lifts each have the capacity for 16 people and are the ‘through’ type with exits at each end to make accessing them as easy as possible.

Other parts of the station will be improved with work including improvements to the ticket office and relocation of a retail unit into the old taxi office to create more space for the new lift shaft. New handrails and tactile surfacing will be installed on the existing platform staircases.

On the exterior of the station, all staircases will be upgraded as well with new access ramps for the Furzehill Square side of the station, while new chicane handrails will be introduced to the Sayes Court Road entrance to safely slow users down before they emerge onto the footway. There will also be improved cycle shelters and two new blue badge holder parking bays.

Paul Harwood, Network Rail’s Investment Director for Southern Region, said: “The ‘Access for All’ programme enables a significant investment in our stations in Kent and the wider Southern Region which will help all our passengers and especially those with mobility issues. 

“St Mary Cray will have modern step-free access to its platforms for the first time and dozens of other measures throughout the station will make access much easier for all passengers.”

Both Network Rail and the train operating company Southeastern will engage and work with passengers to communicate progress throughout the works.

Matt Hawken, Southeastern station manager for St Mary Cray, said: “At Southeastern we are committed to providing a safe and comfortable journey for everyone.

“A key part of that is how easily people can get around our stations and on or off the trains.

“This work at St Mary Cray means that another one of our stations will have step-free access. It does make a real difference to disabled people and those with heavy luggage or prams.”

The work will begin on the 15 February 2021 and is due to be completed by the end of the Autumn.

Most of the work will take place between Monday to Friday and during daytime hours from 07:30–18:00, however, there may be some occasions where work will have to be carried out overnight, for example, to lift materials in over the railway line, or during weekends when the trains are not running.

Network Rail and its contractor, BAM Nuttall, will ensure measures are in place to minimise the impact of the improvement works on the passengers, railway operation and our local neighbours.

Cat-astrophe averted: missing moggy’s Purr-mingham New Street adventure

A cat missing since Christmas Day has been reunited with her owner after a journey through one of Britain’s busiest railway stations.

While fewer people might be travelling by rail right now, Storm the cat became an unlikely passenger needing additional assistance at Purr-mingham New Street.

The 8-month-old cat had travelled from Erdington on Tuesday 12 January with a passenger intending to take the missing moggy to a rehoming centre in Stafford.

Fortunately for Storm, the passenger had to leave the station unexpectedly, starting a sequence of events which would set the lost feline on her journey homeward bound.

Left at station reception, Storm met shift station manager and cat lover, Lucy Martin, who worked out what to do next.

Lucy, who has cats of her own at home, took Storm to her local vet for a check-up and to see if she was microchipped, but the search came up short.

After two days of scouring social media and animal shelter websites, Lucy and her husband, Simon, eventually had the breakthrough they’d been hoping for.

Storm’s owner, back in Erdington, had posted a desperate plea to find her much-loved pet just after Christmas on a local lost and found Facebook page.

Storm’s owner, Chantelle, said: “I let Storm out as usual on Christmas Day, and when I went to call her back a couple of hours later, there was no sign of her.

“Seeing no sign of her for almost three weeks, I was coming to terms with the fact that she was gone. I was absolutely over the moon when Lucy got in touch to say that she had found a cat that matched the description on my post!

“I sent over some photos of Storm to confirm we had the right cat, and before we knew it she was safely back home. I couldn’t be happier to have her back and I’m so grateful to Lucy and Network Rail for reaching out.”

But Britain’s busiest interchange railway station outside of London is no stranger to animal antics.

Lucy, acknowledging a deserved round of a-paws, said: “Working in a busy station means that acquiring animals on shift isn’t particularly unusual. At the start of lockdown last year we had to rehome a baby dove.

“We knew it was a long shot finding Storm’s forever family again, but we wanted to make sure we tried our best to get her home. I’m so pleased Storm is back home and safe and sound after her railway adventure.”

Storm was quickly reunited with Chantelle in purr-fect health, with all nine lives intact.

Chantelle says she’s feline great to have Storm home – and hopes she doesn’t have a new-found taste for travel by rail, road, sea or air.

UPDATE: Emergency rail works continue at Ingatestone to repair embankment

Emergency works to stabilise the embankment at Ingatestone on the Great Eastern Main Line is progressing well and the work is expected to be completed by Wednesday.

The embankment has become unstable, causing a dip in the tracks on the line out of London towards Norwich. The line from Norwich into London is still open and is being closely monitored. This means that a reduced service is running on the main line and branch line services to Clacton, Braintree, Southend, Colchester Town and Harwich are also affected.

Remedial works are ongoing and are expected to finish on Wednesday morning. A further update will be sent out on Tuesday (26 January) to confirm the timings. Passengers are advised to check Greater Anglia’s website or app for the latest travel information. Passengers should also follow government advice and only travel for work if essential or for other legally permitted reasons.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “We’ve been working around the clock this weekend to carry out repairs. Work is progressing well and as long as there no issues we plan to reopen the line on Wednesday morning.

“I know that this has been very disruptive for passengers and for those living nearby and I’d like to thank everyone for their patience. I’d like to say a special thank you to those who have worked with us to enable access to the site to carry out these emergency repairs.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia Managing Director, said: “We would like to thank customers for their patience while engineers work to repair the railway, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused.

“We are running a reduced timetable for all services which travel through Ingatestone. Customers should check before they travel and allow more time for their journey. We will keep our website updated with any changes to our services.

“Anyone who is affected by the delays can claim compensation at www.greateranglia.co.uk/delayrepay

“Government travel advice is currently to stay at home and only travel for legally permissible reasons such as work and medical appointments. Information about what we are doing to keep passengers safe during the pandemic is on our website.”

Helicopter surveys keep Wolverhampton and Tamworth stations’ big freezes at bay

Thermal imaging cameras mounted to a Network Rail helicopter are keeping passengers and freight moving after heavy snowfall across the West Midlands.

Although sub-zero temperatures caused heavy snow to fall and ice to form on tracks this weekend, much of the railway has been operating as normal.

This is helped by the Network Rail Air Operations team, which is today (Monday 25 January) carrying out sky-high inspections of the West Coast main line and key rail routes in the West Midlands.

The impressive aerial photos taken on the flight over Wolverhampton station, and also Tamworth station in Staffordshire, are to check that points – the equipment which allows trains to move tracks – do not become frozen and stop working.

In each set of points the steel rails are heated to stop this from happening. If the heaters are working properly the points should glow bright white in the thermal pictures – if they appear dark the helicopter team raises the alarm to engineers on the ground for them to fix.

Dave Penney, Network Rail’s Central route director, said: “With the West Midlands under a blanket of snow the Network Rail Air Operations team has been inspecting the railway from the sky today to help keep passengers and freight moving.

“Key sections of track are fitted with heaters and insulation to help stop them freezing. Thermal imaging cameras attached to a helicopter have been checking the heaters are working.

“Anything reported to us from the skies can then be looked at straight away by the extra teams of people on the ground and fixed as quickly as possible.”

With the cold weather continuing, passengers who still need to travel by train during this period of national lockdown are being advised to check www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest updates.

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