The railway opened for business again this morning (Tuesday 28 August 2018) after a successful bank holiday programme of work.

Although a quieter bank holiday than many recently, only London North West, South East and Anglia were carrying out significant work, it was still enough to have closed the railway in several areas, leading to the inevitable grumbling from passengers.

Euston station had been closed completely as Network Rail replaced North Wembley junction – a major intersection on Europe’s busiest mixed-use railway. Although the railway opened as planned, Euston will be closed again next weekend (1-2 September) as the second phase of work to renew North Wembley junction is completed.

New track at North Wembley junction.

Elsewhere on LNW, buses replaced trains between Birmingham International, Coventry and Rugby as 400 metres of track was renewed in Canley, Coventry and work continued on a £5 million drainage project in Hampton-in-Arden, Solihull, to reduce the risk of flooding on the line between Birmingham International and Coventry.

As Richard Brooks, customer experience director for West Midlands Railway, had said before the start of the weekend: “Our aim is to keep people moving if they have to travel over the August bank holiday. Improvement works are never convenient for anyone, but we will be running replacement buses to and from all stations affected to get people where they need to be.”

The upgrade of the railway between Manchester and Preston via Bolton continued and will provide passengers with better, more reliable electric services as part of a multi-billion pound investment across the North of England. The railway will remain closed until Sunday (2 September) when buses will replace trains.

Track renewal at Colchester.

In East Anglia, Network Rail engineers completed an array of improvements on the Norwich to London main line over the three-day bank holiday weekend. Making the most of the closure, engineers completed the following;

  • 120 metres of track, one set of points, one new buffer stop and 1,200 tons of ballast were replaced at Colchester;
  • Installation of nearly 3km of track between Manningtree and Ardleigh;
  • Five structures that carry overhead wires were replaced between Marks Tey and Colchester;
  • Further work on the Felixstowe branch line as part of a £60.4 million programme to install a 1.4km track loop near Trimley station, to enable an increase in freight services, as well as improvements to the reliability of existing passenger services.

Further closures are due to take place between Colchester and Chelmsford to renew the track.

Factory Junction.

Finally, in the South East, engineers were out on track carrying out work described by John Halsall, Network Rail’s South East route managing director, as “absolutely essential”. This included:

·      More track replacement work inside Sevenoaks tunnel, which, at two miles long, is one of the longest railway tunnels in Britain. Over the past year, and as reported in Rail Engineer, Network Rail has completed urgent repairs to stem leaks and improve drainage in the Victorian tunnel, which was built in the late 1800s, before beginning work to replace the track to further improve reliability. Engineers laid another half a mile of track over the bank holiday and are on course to complete the work by mid-October, having now laid more than two miles of new track.

·      Vital track upgrades on the approach to London Victoria station as engineers replaced old switches and crossings with new ones. Further work is set to take place at Christmas.

·      Work to replace all signalling equipment between Lewes and Seaford with new, more reliable technology continued over the weekend as part of a £20 million upgrade. More improvements happening up until March will mean triple the number of trains will be able to use the line via Lewes as a diversionary route for services between Brighton and Haywards Heath when the main line is closed. The railway sidings at Newhaven Marine will also be upgraded to support a potential freight connection in the future.

·      The High Output Ballast Cleaner was also working in Kent between Shortlands and Swanley to improve track quality and prevent speed restrictions that would result from bumpy or uneven track.

The last word goes to Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, who said: “Work like this is essential to keep services on the move. I’d like to thank passengers for their patience while this work was carried out.”

That’s what it all boils down to. Passengers are being asked to be patient now so that they can benefit from an improved service in the future. Thankfully, most of them understand that.


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