The Eden Brows embankment on the Settle-Carlisle line is to be stabilised in a highly engineered repair
Work has begun on a £23m programme of repairs on the Settle to Carlisle railway, to make safe the 500,000-tonne landslip that occurred at Eden Brows embankment in February this year. Network Rail has confirmed that the Settle-Carlisle route should be fully reopened to trains by the end of March 2017.

Engineers are constructing a concrete and steel, tunnel-like structure that will sit beneath the railway, 70 metres above the River Eden, to provide a stable base across the damaged and unstable ground.

Two rows of high-strength piles will be driven into the sloping bedrock of the Eden gorge, north of Armathwaite, forming a corridor set into the hillside. A 1.5metre-thick, 100metre-long concrete slab will then be placed on top of this creating a solid base for the tracks.

This £23m engineering solution was selected by Network Rail from among six options which included significantly moving the course of the Settle-Carlisle railway, building a bridge, and digging out the entire gorge embankment an filling it with solid material.

This structure will stabilise the section of gorge bank above the River Eden which gave way in February, causing ground below the railway to slip 1.5 metres during the following weeks.

In addition, an extensive £5m earthworks project is being planned to protect the foot of the bank at river level, including new drainage systems and rock armour to help prevent erosion. Trees will also be replanted to stabilise the land.

Martin Frobisher, managing director for Network Rail’s London North Western route, said: “This is a complex repair job many months in the planning … The structure we’re building will safeguard this section of railway for generations to come. If the land gives way again, the railway will not.”

This section of the Eden gorge slipped in the 1870s when the line was being built, and it took the then Midland Railway two years to stabilise the ground with Victorian resources and know-how.

TfL releases its initial response to Crossrail 2 consultation
Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail have published an initial response to the public consultation launched last year on Crossrail 2.

The consultation received nearly 21,000 responses on 40 issues including: station locations, entrances and exits for the tunnelled section of the proposed route; locations of ventilation shafts for the tunnelled section; construction sites required to build the scheme; and service patterns and changes to existing National Rail services.

Changes announced in the initial response include saving a listed building at Dalston, protecting Britannia Leisure Centre at Shoreditch Park by abandoning the location as a site for a vent shaft, and looking to provide a new pedestrian access to Angel from Torrens Street.

Other issues raised by the consultation, as well as recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission and subsequent Government response, are still being worked on.

In March 2016 government committed £80m, along with match funding from TfL, to take Crossrail 2 to the next stage of development with the aim of depositing a Hybrid Bill in 2019.

St Peters squareManchester’s St Peter’s Square goes green as work nears completion
The final stages of a 14 month programme of construction are under way to expand Metrolink’s St Peter’s Square stop in Manchester, in preparation for the Second City Crossing, a new tram line that is due to open in 2017.

Tram services will resume through the square at the end of August.

A giant crane operating from the adjacent construction site has lifted the huge precast concrete sections of the platforms and passenger shelters into position. The final stretches of tram line are now being laid through the square, and over the coming weeks fixtures and fittings, including overhead line equipment and on-stop furniture, will be installed.

As part of Manchester City Council’s redevelopment of St Peter’s Square, a total of 22 new semi mature trees are being planted around the stop. Each platform will also have two trees to offer shade and greenery to complement the specially designed green themed passenger shelters.

David Higgins recommends an alternative route for HS2 in South Yorkshire
David Higgins has come up with an alternative proposal for HS2’s route and stations in South Yorkshire, that could save around £1bn and carry services into the centre of Sheffield.

The new option proposes that services to Sheffield would take a spur off the new north-south high speed line and travel directly to the existing Sheffield Midland station using the existing railway line. Trains could then potentially call at Chesterfield.

This also offers the option to extend HS2 services to the existing Meadowhall station, Rotherham, or Barnsley in the future.

There are significant benefits to the new proposal. A city centre station solution for Sheffield high speed services would allow the main HS2 line to be built east of the previously proposed route, through less densely populated areas that would avoid the complexities of building a line via Meadowhall.

The new route would cut journey times on services to Leeds, York and Newcastle, and would also reduce the cost of the project by around £1bn.

HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins said: “Projects of HS2’s size, scale and significance should seek to provide the maximum benefit for the people they serve. I have listened to the very constructive comments and discussions that have taken place on how HS2 should best serve South Yorkshire and recommend the option of HS2 services using the existing city centre station.”

The Secretary of State for Transport will now consider David Higgins’ report in detail and make an announcement on the full HS2 Phase 2 route later this year.

Facelift for Stephenson’s bridge
The historic Grade I-listed bridge, built by Stephenson in 1830, is being restored as part of the Ordsall Chord project which will connect Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria stations. Nearby Princes Bridge, which had obscured it for decades, has been removed enabling engineers access to the bridge for restoration.

Performance needs to improve
ORR’s annual report on Network Rail’s performance states that Network Rail has had a good year on safety and has made good progress in improving its infrastructure. However, the costs have been greater than expected and the investment has not yet delivered improvements in performance across the network as a whole.

Construction commissioner for HS2
Gareth Epps, previously the senior community relations policy manager at Crossrail, has been appointed interim construction commissioner for HS2. His role will be to investigate issues that have not reached a satisfactory conclusion through HS2 Ltd’s complaints process, providing independent, impartial decisions as well as advice on how to make a complaint.

Flood alleviation work starts at Hinksey
Flood alleviation work is being carried out on the Western line that runs through Hinksey in Oxfordshire. Tracks are being raised by more than half a metre and culverts installed beneath them to allow water to flow from one side to the other. Flooding around Hinksey has resulted in 11 closures in the last 14 years.

Acton dive-under competed
The new dive-under at Acton, part of the Crossrail construction programme, is now structurally complete. When opened early next year it will allow Paddington-bound passenger services to pass under the slower freight trains. Electric overhead wires and signals will now be installed and the first test trains will use the dive-under at the end of this year.

Dover repairs ahead of schedule
Network Rail has confirmed that the £39.8m project to rebuild the damaged line between Folkestone and Dover will be completed this autumn, ahead of schedule. Engineers are future proofing the vulnerable section of line, which ran along the top of the sea wall, by building a new 235 metre-long viaduct supported by 134 concrete columns to securely carry the track.

Crossrail’s green credentials
Highlights from Crossrail’s latest sustainability report include: 84% of construction machinery fitted with pollutant reducing emission controls; 98% of excavated material beneficially reused; 573 apprenticeships created on the project, almost 50% more than the original target; over 15,000 people trained at the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in Ilford.

£1bn rail vision for north west
A cross-border alliance of business, political and public sector leaders are campaigning to secure £1bn of rail improvements linking North Wales, Cheshire and the Wirral with the planned HS2 line between London and the North of England. These include electrification of the line from Crewe to North Wales, new rolling stock, new and more frequent services and station improvements.