Network Rail brings new flood defence barrier into use to stop flooding north of Exeter

Network Rail has installed a new flood defence barrier to protect passenger journeys from being disrupted by flooding to the north of Exeter.

Cowley Bridge Junction

The barrier, which was installed at the end of May, is part of a £26.5 million programme to reduce the regular disruption to long distance and local (Tarka Line) rail services, between the city of Exeter and the town of Barnstaple that is often caused by flooding of the River Exe around the Cowley Bridge Junction area.

Cowley Bridge – Flood defence being installed

The new metal flood defence barrier can be quickly assembled across the railway when poor weather is forecast and stops the flow of the flood water. When not in use, the barrier remains largely unseen, which means the local landscape remains largely unchanged.

The first part of this project was the installation of large flood drains in 2018, which allow water to drain underneath the railway and safely away from the railway.

Cowley Bridge – Flood defence up
Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Route Director for the Western route, said:

“We are delighted to be further improving the reliability of journeys for passengers travelling to and from the south west.  While we can’t control the weather, we can put in place measures that will help protect the railway from flooding and services not running.

“The area north of Exeter regularly floods and stops rail services running between Devon, Cornwall and the rest of the country. It’s vital for passengers, businesses and the regional economy that we prevent this from happening. The new flood barrier is one of the latest measures we’ve put in place, working with the Environment Agency, to reduce this from happening last year. In February this year, we experienced an extreme amount of wet weather and we were able to see that these measures are already starting to help.”

Cowley Bridge – When not in use
Simon Dart, Flood and Coastal Management Advisor for the Environment Agency, added:

“We were keen to support Network Rail’s project that helps protect this major route from flooding.  The barrier is a part of the new Exeter flood defence scheme and helps to better protect the St David’s area of Exeter, including hundreds of homes and commercial development, plus strategically important roads and infrastructure.”

Cowley Bridge – When not in use

Project protects Highland railway from impacts of unpredictable weather.

Work is about to get underway on a final phase of embankment and drainage work at Slochd between Perth and Inverness on the Highland Mainline.

The project, which will be ongoing until November will help protect against landslips and rockfall and also address a known flooding risk area which has caused delay and cancellation to passenger journeys twice in the last twelve months.

It represents an investment of £4.8 million to protect the infrastructure.

Work will see installation of a new piped drainage system and earth-bunds, as well as concrete lined ditches to manage the flow of water away from the railway to culverts and natural water courses.

The project, which is being delivered over two kilometres of railway has been on site at Slochd since September 2019 and has targeted known areas of embankment with a history of instability and prone to rock-fall and flooding.

To date, the project has utilised 11,000 tonnes of stone to regrade more than 400 metres of railway embankment which is 14 metres high in sections. In addition, more than 840 metres of concrete lined drainage channels have been created and rock-netting has been installed where required.

110 metres of ballast retention has also been added to support the crest at the top of the embankments and to provide a new secure cable troughing route on the side of the line.

The project is part of a wider package of geotechnical work designed to identify and proactively deliver work required to address known, or potential, areas where the risk of flooding, embankment slip or rock-fall is high and to avert the associated passenger disruption that these issues could cause.

Mark Wilson, Network Rail’s project manager for the work at Slochd said, “The unpredictable nature of the Scottish weather means that storms or flooding can happen at any time of the year. 

“Milder and wetter weather means that drainage in some areas is no longer fit for purpose and can get overwhelmed. We are proactively replacing and increasing the capacity of drains and culverts to manage the larger volumes of water coming onto the railway from adjacent land on a more frequent basis.

“Work at Slochd will address a flooding issue which has caused the line to be closed twice in the last twelve months; once due to snow melt and the other due to an August storm.  It will also ensure that the surrounding drainage and embankments are future-proofed to protect the railway from the impact of increasingly unpredictable weather.”

Work at Slochd is being delivered in line with government advice on physical distancing using additional protective equipment and learning new ways of working that will help keep everyone safe and let us get the job done.

Runcorn Rover’s Return: Railway workers rescue couple’s missing pooch

A couple has been reunited with their much-loved missing pet dog after a four-day search of the railway in Cheshire.

Rover in contractor EricFormby’s arms

Rover, an 18-month-old Cocker Spaniel, went missing in Runcorn on 30 May causing his owners Alan and Laura a weekend of worry.

After receiving a report of the missing pup, Network Rail mobile operations manager Andy Smith went to look for him.

On Tuesday (2 June) Andy found Rover, but he escaped again before finally being brought to safety away from the railway line.

Rover back safe in his basket alongside owners Alan and Laura

To help round up the poor pooch, Andy enlisted the help of Dave Ball, Network Rail off-track team leader, and railway maintenance workers from contractor EA Formby Ltd, who all immediately downed tools for the continued search.

The team eventually found run-away Rover on a railway embankment about two miles from where he had escaped. 

After 15 minutes of patiently waiting for the cautious canine to accept their help, the team managed to coax Rover to safety and he was returned to owners Alan and Laura after four days of hide and seek.

Owners Alan and Laura with Rover after his railway ordeal

Dave Ball, off-track team leader at Network Rail, said: “Many of us in my team are dog lovers with pets of our own. Rover is a beautiful Cocker Spaniel and clearly well looked after, so we are so happy that he is reunited safely with his family. 

“It must have been really scary for Rover by the railway and we’re really glad to have got him safely away from danger and back home where he belongs.”

The Network Rail and contractors from EA Formby who finally found Rover

Owners Alan and Laura were overjoyed to be reunited with Rover. 

Alan said: “We are so grateful to the efforts of the team at Network Rail who rescued Rover. We’ve got our little family back together and we couldn’t be happier.”

Network Rail worked with local group ‘Bindi’s Lost and Found Pets’ in the search for the missing dog.

Donna Ryan, founder of Bindi’s Lost and Found Pets, said: “We had been looking for Rover for four days in the very hot weather. I am very happy he was returned to Alan and Laura. We are very grateful to Network Rail and the Runcorn community for their work to find him.” 

Because the railway is very dangerous, anyone who sees a dog on the track is advised to ring the Network Rail helpline on 03457 11 41 41 so our specially trained staff can help.

Rover in Eric Formby’s arms after being rescued

Please never venture onto railway lines to look for an animal yourself as there are many hidden dangers on the tracks and the consequences could be fatal.

South Wales and London now closer than ever as electric railway now running through historic Severn Tunnel

London and south Wales are now closer than ever as from today (Friday 5 June) rail passengers are benefitting from an electrified railway from capital to capital as Network Rail has successfully completed the electrification of the Severn Tunnel.

It means for the first time ever an electric railway will run from Cardiff and Newport in south Wales, through the historic Severn Tunnel and all the way to London Paddington.

Electrification 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 on GWR’s Intercity Express Trains.

At 134-years-old and four miles in length, the Severn Tunnel has an extremely challenging environment, as over 14 million gallons of water are pumped out of it every day by Sudbrook pumping station to stop it from flooding.

Network Rail engineers have worked with world leading experts to find a robust and reliable solution to deliver an electric railway through the tunnel which will ensure passengers gain the full benefits of electrification.

Sudbrook pumping station is also set to be renewed as part of the upgrade of the Severn Tunnel, further improving the reliability of the railway.

Electrification to south Wales supports Welsh Government’s plans which includes a south Wales metro, an integrated transport system across the whole of Wales and a long-term vision for a Swansea Bay Metro.

Mark Langman, Network Rail’s managing director for Wales and Western said:

“I am absolutely delighted that the Severn Tunnel is now fully electrified, resulting in a seamless rail link for passengers between Cardiff and London Paddington.

“Electrification has reduced journey times between south Wales and London by as much as 15 minutes and provided an additional 15,000 weekday seats compared with a year ago, with the possibility of further increasing the number of services and seats from south Wales in the future.

 “It has been a hugely complex task to electrify the tunnel but I’m thrilled that the final piece of the puzzle is now complete.

 “I would like to thank passengers and lineside neighbours for their patience over the past decade as we worked to deliver the transformation of this vital railway and am pleased that they will benefit from these improvements for years to come.”

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

“It’s fantastic to announce the line between the capitals of Wales and England is fully electric at last, benefitting both passengers and the environment through quicker, greener, more reliable journeys.

“The completion of this ambitious project is just one part of our record investment to deliver the most significant upgrade of the UK’s railways since Victorian times, transforming travel for passengers right across the UK.”

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said:

“It is crucial that Wales has cutting-edge transport links to help people travel to work, encourage inward investment and better connect it to the rest of the UK in order to boost prosperity.

“As we seek to grow our economy once again, I look forward to continued collaboration with Network Rail to improve connections, cut journey times and create world-class transport infrastructure in Wales.”

Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, said:

“The completion of the electrification works in the Severn Tunnel is welcome news in terms of improving journey times between Capitals and delivering towards our decarbonisation agenda for transport. I would like to thank Network Rail for completing this work in what must have been challenging circumstances.

“I hope that the completion of this work can be taken as a strong signal of intent from Network Rail and the UK Government that there is more investment to come to improve journey times and capacity across South Wales in the future, including electrification westwards beyond Cardiff.

“Clearly in the present circumstance travel should be undertaken only if it is essential, however we continue to plan for the future and this scheme is a clear example of this.”

Major investment for crucial coastal viaduct on Cumbrian Coast line

A multi-million-pound project to improve a crucial coastal viaduct will start next month to make journeys faster and more reliable for Cumbrian Coast line passengers.

A £2m Great North Rail Project investment will see wooden timbers and 600 metres of rail renewed on the 18-span Eskmeals viaduct which carries the railway over the River Esk estuary.

Eskmeals viaduct

Eskmeals viaduct was built in 1868 and still has its original wrought iron girders, which were strengthened in the 1920s, and its red sandstone piers which support the structure in the estuary itself.

When the new track is installed on the important link between Ravenglass and Bootle, speed restrictions imposed on trains can be lifted meaning faster journeys for passengers.

Phil James, route director for Network Rail’s North West route, said: “This significant Great North Rail Project investment at Eskmeals viaduct will ensure that the Cumbrian Coast line remains safe and reliable for passenger and freight trains for many more years to come.

“We know that this is the second time in a month that part of this line has been closed, and I want to thank passengers for their patience while work takes place.

“In line with government advice around coronavirus, we’re continuing to ask passengers to avoid public transport if at all possible and to only travel by train where your journey is essential.”

The work means the viaduct will be closed to trains for eight days between Saturday 20 and Monday 29 June.

To keep passengers on the move rail replacement buses will be provided between Millom and Sellafield.

Chris Jackson, regional director at Northern, said: “The viaduct at Eskmeals is iconic and an important part of the railway heritage in Cumbria. But it’s more than that, it’s also a vital part of the current rail network.

“The viaduct has stood for more than 150 years and the improvements being carried out by Network Rail will future-proof it for generations to come.”

Engineers will also take the opportunity to upgrade walkways and handrails across the viaduct which are used by railway staff.

This will enable future maintenance work on the structure to take place more easily and safely.

Meanwhile, passengers should continue following Government guidelines around the use of public transport.

People who need to make journeys are advised to check www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest information.

Wherry line track renewal works to make journeys more reliable for passengers

Works to replace worn out track on the line between Norwich and Lowestoft will take place in June and August to provide a better journey experience for passengers. This follows works successfully completed last February to replace 3km of track in the Hassingham area.

Cantley track renewals

Next weekend, engineers will replace nearly 1km of track between Buckenham and Cantley station to maintain a safe and reliable railway. The work will take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June. Rail replacement services will run and passengers are advised to check before they travel. Passengers should only use this service if their journey is essential and they can’t travel another way.

In August, engineers will replace approximately 4km of track in the vicinity of Cantley including through the station. There will be a week long closure of the line from 11pm on Friday 14 August and the line will reopen on Monday 24 August. A rail replacement service will run and passengers should check with the train operator before they travel for the latest information and travel guidance.

The works will include track replacement and installation of a new vehicle deck across the Station Road crossing in the village of Cantley. Closures of the crossing are required on the following days and times:

  • From 22:00 on Wednesday 19 August to 05:00 on Monday 24 August
  • From 23:00 on Friday 28 August to 06:00 on Sunday 30 August to complete the vehicle deck.

Vehicle access across the railway will not be possible when the crossing is closed. Pedestrian access will be maintained and managed throughout the works via the Church Road foot crossing to the north west of the station. Plans are in place to accommodate vehicle access for blue light services in an emergency.

Network Rail is providing a secure parking facility along with a minibus service (following Government guidance on social distancing) to ferry people between the car park and Church Road foot crossing to minimise the inconvenience during the crossing closures.  

The works have been planned with the co-operation of the British Sugar factory and public meetings have been held with residents and the Parish Council to explain how the works will be undertaken and to address local concerns about access.

Ellie Burrows, route director for Anglia said: “These important works are part of our programme of track renewals across the route to maintain safe and reliable rail services. We recognise the impact this work will have on the local community and have put measures in place to try to minimise the disruption. I’d like to thank the Cantley community and British Sugar for their patience and co-operation while we carry out this work.”   

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: “We realise that any engineering works causes our customers inconvenience, but this work is vital so that we can provide as reliable a service as possible.

“We will ensure that customers are able to complete their journeys – even if part of it is by bus, and that any measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are followed.

“At the moment, Government advice is to avoid all public transport, including trains, unless your journey is essential and you can’t travel another way.”

No trains in or out of London King’s Cross on June weekend as East Coast Upgrade work continues

  • No trains in or out of London King’s Cross or Moorgate, or from the East Coast Main Line into St Pancras International, on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 June 2020 so new overhead line equipment can be installed.
  • Project is part of £1.2billion upgrade which will deliver more trains, thousands of extra seats and more reliable journeys.
  • Under current COVID-19 guidance, journeys should only be made if they are necessary, and those needing to travel should avoid using public transport wherever possible, with use of face coverings strongly encouraged where social distancing is not possible

Network Rail and train operators on the East Coast Main Line are urging passengers not to travel to or from London King’s Cross, Moorgate or on Thameslink services via Finsbury Park on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 June as the next stage of planned work on the huge East Coast Upgrade continues.

The installation of new overhead line equipment over the affected weekend is the latest stage of the project which will eventually see a disused railway tunnel leading to King’s Cross reopened, allowing additional tracks to be laid so more trains can enter and exit the station. When combined with upgrades elsewhere on the route, the East Coast Upgrade will enable more reliable journeys between London, Peterborough and Cambridge.

Safety is Network Rail’s top priority and so the station will need to be closed to train services for this short period. All the work is being done under strict guidelines, in accordance with social distancing rules.

On LNER services, rail replacement buses will operate between St Neots and Bedford where those still travelling can take Thameslink services into London. On the Govia Thameslink Railway network, no Great Northern or Thameslink services will run on the East Coast Main Line into King’s Cross, St Pancras International or Moorgate. Rail replacement buses will operate from Potters Bar and New Barnet to stations on the Bedford to St Pancras route and to London Underground stations for onward connections into London.

Under the current COVID-19 guidance, people are being asked to consider whether their journey is necessary and are being encouraged to stay local. Those who cannot work from home and need to travel should avoid public transport where possible. Those who have to travel by train on the affected weekend should check their journey ahead of time via EastCoastUpgrade.co.uk, National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator.

Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail, said: “The COVID-19 crisis continues to bring significant challenges for the railway, however we are working day and night to keep the railway running reliably and safely and to carry out essential work.

“On Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 June, we will continue with a vital project to upgrade the East Coast Main Line in a £1.2billion investment. We’ve changed our working methods on site to make sure we can follow Public Health Guidelines and carry on with this project which will bring significant benefits for passengers.

“We’d like to remind everyone that they should only be making journeys that are necessary, but if you do need to travel, please seek alternative travel arrangements. Bus replacement services will be in place, but these will take significantly longer than usual.”

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris said: “With capacity on our railways significantly reduced due to COVID-19, it is important that people work from home if they can, stagger their travel times to avoid crowds, and use other forms of transport wherever possible.

“For those people who do have to travel, we understand this closure will cause significant disruption to their journeys over the weekend. However this work is the next stage of the vital East Coast upgrade which will deliver more trains, thousands more seats for long distance passengers and more reliable journeys in the future.”

A spokesperson on behalf of train operators on the route, said: “We appreciate any engineering work can cause inconvenience, but this work is really important to make sure we have a railway which can meet the needs of communities and economies along the route for the long term. We thank our passengers in advance for their understanding and flexibility.

“The work will mean more reliable, more frequent and faster services with more seats, improving travel for our passengers. We’d urge passengers to continue to follow the Government advice to only travel when necessary, and to avoid use of public transport where possible at this time. If you have to travel please check how your journey will be affected by visiting EastCoastUpgrade.co.uk, National Rail Enquiries or check with your specific train operator.”