Around seven million passengers a year use the Glasgow to Edinburgh line, one of the UK’s busiest rail routes. As such, the Christmas holiday period provided a much-needed opportunity for renewals and enhancements. In Scotland there was a further opportunity as, with Scotland taking its Hogmanay seriously, there were no trains on New Year’s Day.

Over the recent festive season, work done between Edinburgh and Glasgow included a six point-end renewal, demolition of three bridges, digging mast foundations, installing tunnel conductor rail fixings and commissioning a new junction that will temporarily add ten miles to the route.

This involved some diversionary arrangements. A tweet from @ NetworkRailEGIP advised that “We have a no fly zone over #Xmas work sites but well signposted #Santa diversion routes in place. #Santa will get through.”

Anniesland’s new route

Over Christmas, a new junction was commissioned at Anniesland. Up to then, there was no rail connection at the station between its service from Glasgow Queen Street Low Level, using the Glasgow North Electric line, and the one from Queen Street High level which was opened as recently as 2005 following the construction of a one-mile spur from the Maryhill line to a new bay platform at Anniesland. On 29 March, Queen Street High Level station will be shut for 20 weeks to renew slab track in the station’s one kilometre long tunnel. The new junction at Anniesland is part of the complex diversionary arrangements for this closure, as it will allow trains on the main route from Edinburgh to reach Glasgow via a continuous route through Anniesland, Queen Street Low Level and Springburn.

The new junction at Anniesland was constructed specifically for this diversion after which, although there are no plans for continuing services, it will remain a useful additional diversionary route. Costing £15 million, the project was completed within a year of its initial development and provided a single lead junction, 350 metres of new track and its connection to the existing bay platform line. The main contractor was EGIP Alliance partner Morgan Sindall, for whom Babcock provided rail services.

After civil clearance works in the summer, the connection to the bay platform line was installed in September. An upgraded signalling power supply was installed in October and the single lead junction on the Glasgow North Electric line was laid in a 56- hour disruptive possession in November. The junction incorporates a maintenance lock out.

EGIP programme engineering manager Scott Wardrop advised that commissioning this new layout over Christmas was not straightforward. The junction forms a new boundary between two signalling centres as the Queen Street High Level services are controlled by Edinburgh and the North electrics by Yoker, so requiring a new fringe between the SSIs at Hyndland and Eastfield.

Furthermore, the Yoker Integrated Electronic Control Centre (IECC) was one of the first to be commissioned, in 1989. Scott explained that contingency arrangements were required against the risk of the new junction’s software alterations degrading this first generation IECC. However, by 07:00 on Christmas Day, it was established that there had been no adverse impact.

Haymarket renewal

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, a £7 million renewal requiring 700 man-shifts was replacing three sets of points at Haymarket East Junction. These provide a route from the Up South line, across the Down North and Up North lines, to the Thru Sidings and the Haymarket depot entrance. The possession for this S&C renewal was from 22:00 on 24 December to 06:00 on 27 December, with an associated renewal of 520 metres of plain line track on the Up and Down North lines carried out between 22:00 on 31 December and 10:00 on 2 January.

AmeySersa’s senior project engineer, Eddie McLoone, informed Rail Engineer that 44 separate panels, which would make up the new S&C, had been delivered to site in advance using Network Rail’s tilting wagons and had been stored in the cess. The demand for these wagons was such that they would not be available during the time of the Haymarket work itself.

The S&C was laid up to 10.5 metres east of its original position. This required an additional headspan, which was installed beforehand. There was a six-hour window for the required overhead line equipment (OLE) wiring alterations during the possession.

image001 [online]

Two Kirow 250 tonne cranes, supplied by Swietelsky Babcock, placed these panels in position. Also on site were two S&C tampers, two laser bulldozers, six road rail machines and mobile elevating working platforms (MEPS) for OLE work. Eddie explains that there were two concurrent sets of work. First one workgroup replaced adjacent switches on the Down North, whilst the other did the same on the Up North. The two groups then simultaneously replaced the remaining point ends on the Up South and Thru Sidings.

After dropping ballast and tamping, the plan required the new layout to be ready by 16:00 on 26 December for wheels-free testing and welding, for which eight hours was allowed. With a further one hour for OLE proving, there was a four-hour float before the possession had to be given up at 05:00. In the event, the work went to plan. The continuous torrential rain on 26 December did not affect the work but was far from pleasant for those on site.

Hogmanay fireworks

New Year’s Day saw the renewal of 310 metres of track on the Down North Line and 205 metres on the Up North line. The wet weather had an indirect effect as planned ballast trains were unable to reach site due to flood damage to Lamington viaduct as a result of storm Frank. As New Year’s Day offered a rare opportunity to undertake this work, the AmeySersa/ Network Rail Alliance took the decision to re-scope the work to reduce the dig and use scarified ballast.

With no midweek Rule of Route (RoR) possession opportunities, engineering access opportunities at this location are severely limited. This is because its points are used for trains into Haymarket depot. As a result, engineering work can only be undertaken between 01:00 and 06:00 on Sunday mornings. This presented significant difficulties for the required preparation and follow-up work.

The S&C and plain line renewal at Haymarket required careful planning both to ensure that full opportunity was taken of the festive season’s engineering access at one of the Scottish rail network’s busiest junctions and to ensure it did not overrun. The work was delivered to plan, despite the foul weather experienced by those on site on Boxing Day. However, with the work taking place in sight of Edinburgh Castle, those on site at Hogmanay had a grandstand view of Edinburgh’s fireworks.

Linlithgow’s tight fit

Unlike the major alterations at Haymarket and Anniesland, the EGIP electrification work undertaken over the festive period was that generally done during short, midweek possessions. Freed from those demanding constraints, full advantage was taken of the 59-hour Christmas possession and the 30-hour New Year’s Day possession.

This included work in the four- kilometre Winchburgh cutting, which only has one access point and needs scaffolding for edge protection as many foundations are on the cutting slope above retaining walls.

The historic town of Linlithgow was well established when the railway was driven through it in the late 1830s, so land taken here was minimised. West of the station, the railway is sandwiched between two roads and their respective boundary retaining walls above and below the line. The north retaining wall is a listed structure. The result is that this location is a particularly tight fit for foundations.

Senior project engineer Brian Sweeney explained that, as there is not space for foundations on both sides of the track, twin track cantilever structures are being used here. These have the minimum possible offset which required track monitoring. The Christmas possession was used to dig three bespoke concrete foundations, up to 5.9 metres deep, for these structures as piled foundations could have disturbed the adjacent retaining wall and the adjacent St Peter’s church. However, the Christmas work here was timed so as not disturb Morning Eucharist.

Digging foundations in Linlithgow [online]

Linlithgow’s tight boundary walls also required signal EL624 to be moved around 100 metres closer to Edinburgh to maintain signal sighting once OLE masts were erected. The new signal was commissioned on New Year’s Day and is the only signal requiring relocation for EGIP. Everywhere else, it has been possible to design OLE so as not to interfere with signal sighting.

In its tunnels, EGIP is installing the Furrer+Frey rigid overhead conductor-rail system (ROCS), which is relatively new to Britain. ROCS was developed to solve space constraints so has a low overall height with no contact wire uplift. It also has a lower maintenance cost. Its installation required a dedicated precision drilling rig, which was imported from Switzerland and spent Christmas in Falkirk High tunnel installing the ROCS fixings. This conductor-rail system is also being installed by EGIP in Winchburgh and Queen Street tunnels.

Electrics next December

Costain is the EGIP alliance contractor for the installation of electrification equipment, with ABC as delivery partner, a joint venture made up of Alstom, Babcock and Costain. The other EGIP alliance contractor is Morgan Sindall, which manages the civils works.

Over the festive period, Morgan Sindall’s demolition team removed three bridges between Linlithgow and Winchburgh as part of the electrification clearance work.

The team took down a bridge at Philipstoun in the early hours of Christmas Day and then moved to start the Park Farm bridge demolition the next day. On New Year’s Day, an accommodation bridge immediately south of Winchburgh tunnel was demolished.

The EGIP Alliance certainly took full advantage of Christmas and New Year to get as much work done as possible. The project is on schedule to energise the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh in August so that, by December, electric trains will be running on the line. They won’t be running on Christmas Day though. Instead engineers will, no doubt, again be taking best use of this rare opportunity to work for longer than a few hours on this busy line.