Iconic Lancashire viaduct to be strengthened and drainage improved in the area
A £1.6m programme of work has begun on the Whalley Viaduct, an historic Victorian landmark in the Ribble Valley. Comprising of 49 arches, the viaduct connects Blackburn and Clitheroe by rail and was completed in 1850.

Over the next six months engineers will strengthen the viaduct and improve the drainage around it. In total, 2,800 steel brackets and 16,800 anchors will be fixed to the sides of the viaduct to improve the longterm stability of the structure. Approximately 1.4km of handrails are to be fitted to improve safety for future work.

The new drainage system will include a 400m drainage channel, 16 catch pits and a flow control chamber. This will remove excess surface water from the track during heavy rainfall and prevent it from discharging into the River Calder, reducing the impact on the local area which was devastated by flood damage last winter. The collected water will then be slowly released into the river Calder when levels have dropped.

Nigel Evans, MP for the Ribble Valley said: “This huge investment in the local rail infrastructure is extremely welcome news. Whalley Viaduct is a beautiful piece of construction which, for many people, serves as a lasting memory of the Ribble Valley.” Work will take place without disrupting rail or freight services, and continue until 31 March.

MPs welcome the digital railway, if the process is approached collaboratively and with caution
Summarising the deliberations of the inquiry into the digital railway, the Transport Select Committee has published a report, Rail technology: signalling and traffic management. This concludes that improvements to signalling and traffic management technology are needed to deliver a world-class rail network in the UK.

In principle the committee supports the deployment of the European Train Control System, saying Traffic Management software and Driver Advisory systems should be accelerated, but with careful consideration of the digital railway business case, with clarity about funding, and a clear understanding of how this programme would affect existing plans for work on enhancements and renewals.

The report recommends that DfT takes steps to ensure work on cab fitment and trackside infrastructure remain broadly aligned, and that Network Rail addresses concerns expressed by suppliers that they and the rail technology industry have not been sufficiently involved. Work on the digital railway, it says, should be co-ordinated and underpinned by a whole sector approach.

Network Rail should be very cautious about using the 40% improvement in capacity claim. The committee expects the DfT to make a more sophisticated assessment of the likely capacity gains, looking at various investment scenarios and their associated costs, benefits and risks. Network Rail, meanwhile, should be realistic and measured in the time frame it sets in the business case for digital rail.

Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, said: “There is an urgent need to increase capacity and the Digital Railway is an exciting programme which could have real impact. Network Rail’s past performance in planning major enhancements has been poor but this is an exciting opportunity to restore confidence by co-ordinating a whole sector approach which delivers real improvements for the passenger and industry.”

Metrolink gets a green light for new line to Trafford Park
metrolink-gets-a-green-light-for-new-lineGreater Manchester’s Metrolink network, already the largest light rail network in the UK, is set to expand further after plans for a tram line through Trafford Park were given the go ahead.

Transport for Greater Manchester has been granted legal powers to build a new £350m 3.4mile (5.5km) tram line under a Transport and Works Act order. Work could start as early as this winter – and the line could become operational by 2020/2021.

The proposed new Trafford Park line will join the existing Metrolink network at the Pomona stop, and call at 6 new tram stops: Wharfside near Old Trafford football stadium, Imperial War Museum, Village, Parkway, EventCity and Trafford Centre.

The majority of the new route is not on roads to ensure faster, more reliable journey times.

The £350m funding has been secured from the earn back funding arrangement as part of the Greater Manchester devolution deal.

TfGM will shortly appoint a contractor. The Trafford Park line will pass under the Trafford Road Bridge and run alongside the existing promenade next to Manchester Ship Canal before joining Trafford Wharf Road.

The route will turn left onto Warren Bruce Road and then bear to the right onto Village Way up to Parkway. It then crosses over the Bridgewater Ship Canal before turning right onto Barton Dock Road, terminating outside the intu Trafford Centre.

Cambrian Coast line between Barmouth and Tywyn reopens following viaduct fire
cambrian-coast-lineThe line between Barmouth and Tywyn in North Wales reopened on 10 October, six days after a fire caused localised damage to one of the spans on the historic Barmouth Viaduct.

The viaduct is a single-track largely wooden rail structure dating back to 1867, that carries the Cambrian Coast Railway across the River Mawddach estuary in Wales. A grade II listed monument, it also carries a pedestrian walkway which was not affected by the fire.

Small amounts of overnight remedial work have continued through the month, and an investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.

The bridge originally opened in 1867 and included a drawbridge section at its north end for tall ships to pass through.

Severn Tunnel opens again
The Severn Tunnel has been closed for 6 weeks to prepare for electrification of the Great Western Main Line. Before closure, 40 tonnes of soot and 4 miles of cable were removed from the tunnel. During closure, over 8 miles of conductor rail was installed in the 130 year of tunnel. At the same time, track was lowered in the Patchway Tunnels near Bristol and under the nearby Little Stoke Farm bridge to accommodate the electrification equipment.

Bromsgrove upgrade goes ahead Major reconfiguration of the track, points and crossings in the area around Bromsgrove’s new station has begun as part of a £100m investment into the area. London Midland and CrossCountry services are suspended for 12 days while the work is done. New signalling will be made operational in preparation for electrification to Bromsgrove.

Network prepared for Ordsall Chord
Between now and Christmas the railway between Eccles and Deansgate, Eccles and Manchester Victoria, and Deansgate and Salford Crescent will be reconfigured to allow the 300 metre Ordsall Chord to connect with the network ahead of its completion in December 2017. At the same time 2 new bridges will be installed, another renovated, the Castlefield viaduct widened and a new track layout installed at Ordsall Lane.

Committed to HS2
Speaking at the Transport Times HS2 Conference on 12 October, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed the government’s commitment to HS2, from London to Manchester and Leeds.

Bermondsey Dive Under reaches a new milestone
The first track has been laid on the new Bermondsey Dive Under on the approach to London Bridge station, and the first line will come into passenger use on 27 December. Further work will take place during Christmas and the New Year, and over Bank Holiday periods in 2017. When complete in 2018, the new junction will allow Southeastern trains from Kent to pass under the Sussex lines used by Southern and Thameslink trains, uncorking the current bottleneck.

Signalling upgrades for the Spanish railways
ADIF, Administrator of Railway Infrastructures for the Spanish railways, is investing €39.3m in upgrading the signalling installations, train protection systems and centralised traffic control on the Humanes- Monfragüe section of the Madrid- Valencia de Alcántara line. A consortium of Thales and Siemens will be renewing the traffic control and signalling installations, migrating to automatic mode and eliminating the current telephone blocks.

New system saves Network Rail £9.5m
Using an access platform secured to the walls of the Victorian tunnel leading to Liverpool Central station, engineers are applying watersealing cement to the curved ceiling while MerseyRail trains continue to run 15m below. The concrete is applied by using a robotic arm. Some 160 linear metres of tunnel is being repaired and a steelwork arch installed with 300mm of concrete. The job would normally cost £14m but is costing just £4.5m using the new technology, saving £9.5m.