£70m of engineering works in store for the Easter period
The next major tranche of rail upgrades are to be carried out over the Easter bank holiday weekend. While the network settles down for a quieter operating time over the holiday break, a team of over 13,000 rail workers will be delivering more than 200 improvement projects, which represent an investment of £70m in the railways.

These projects include construction work for Crossrail at Shenfield and stations on the TfL Rail line. New signalling equipment at Shenfield will be tested, more than 180 metres of track will be renewed at Pudding Mill Lane between Stratford and London Liverpool Street, and a further 7km of overhead wires will be replaced at Seven Kings.

There will be track and signalling work on all lines between Charing Cross/Cannon Street andNew Cross for the Thameslink project. The team will be making significant changes to signalling, switches and crossings, and realigning the tracks that travel through platforms 1 & 2 at London Bridge.

In the north, further work will be carried out on the Ordsall Chord project, while the remodelling of Salford Central station will continue, including the replacement of Chapel Street bridge.

In the West of England, there is to be further modernisation of Bath Spa station in preparation for the new, longer trains.

Conwy Valley Line set to reopen in April following damage caused by Storm Doris
Conwy valleyThe Conwy Valley line is expected to reopen in mid-April following weeks of extensive repairs after Storm Doris brought a tree down onto the line in February, disturbing the rock face above the railway at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Following an aerial assessment of the damage, specialist geo-technical engineers have been scaling the rock face to remove the disturbed vegetation. They will also remove more than 300 tonnes of rock from the rock face to stabilise it ahead of the reopening date.

The work has been made more difficult by the limited accessibility of the site. With a single track railway and no road access, engineers have been unable to use machinery typically used for similar repairs.

 

Network Rail has completed essential work on the historic Cynghordy Viaduct
Remediation work on Cynghordy Railway Viaduct, a 150 year-old grade II listed structure on the heart of Wales, has now been successfully carried out.Cynghordy Viaduct

Work began in March last year to strengthen the structure and reduce its long-term maintenance costs. Stainless steel bars have been bonded into cut slots at pre-determined levels in the masonry of the pillars and arches. This bar, now delicately covered in mortar, will give the viaduct a greater structural integrity for decades to come. Each pillar has also been jetcleaned to rejuvenate the brickwork.

Extensive scaffolding was required along the 850ft length of the 100ft high viaduct. This was erected using resin anchors in the mortar joints, to prevent damage to the historic brickwork.

Network Rail liaised closely with Carmarthenshire County Council and CADW to ensure the restoration work would protect the structure, and be sympathetic to the original Cynghordy brick.

Built in 1867, the viaduct carries the single railway line between Llanelli and Craven Arms.

Network Rail sets out 30-year plan for southeast London and Kent
Plans to make sure the railway can continue to accommodate huge growth in passengers and freight in south east London and Kent have been published by Network Rail.

Passenger numbers on lines connecting the capital with Kent are forecast to rise by 47% by 2044, and 127% on high speed trains to and from St Pancras International. Network Rail has worked with industry partners to draft a strategy, the Kent Area Route Study, to help solve the immediate challenge and provide a range of solutions for the next 30 years.

By 2024 the study proposes:

  • Lengthening high speed South London metro and Kent commuter peak time trains to 12-cars and extending platforms to accommodate them
  • Creating a link between HS1 and the Marshlink route to facilitate faster trains to Hastings and Rye. This could include an electrification scheme or bi-mode trains that can run under diesel or electric power
  • Increasing capacity at Cannon Street by creating a siding to stable trains
  • Crowding relief schemes at Lewisham, Peckham Rye and Denmark Hill stations, and
  • New signalling systems, including traffic management technology, to maximise train performance on busy sections where capacity is constrained.

Long term options include:

  • Rebuilding Charing Cross station to allow for more and longer trains to terminate there, potentially extending the platforms across the Thames
  • Providing additional tracks on the route into Victoria to allow more and longer trains to terminate there
  • Creating a southern link from Ebbsfleet International via Fawkham to stations on the Bromley South route
  • Creating a link between Faversham and Ashford, a route poorly-served by road.

A three-month consultation period is now open to allow stakeholders and the public to have their say.

IN BRIEF
US rail funding under threat
The Trump administration is planning to cut Department of Transportation funding by 13%, according to the blueprint for the Financial Year 2018 budget. This would result in significant cuts to passenger train and municipal operations, and to federal grants for capital investment in main line and urban rail projects. Federal funding for Amtrak’s long-distance passenger services is also under threat.

Midland Metro boost
Passenger figures on the Midland Metro jumped from 5m in 2015 to 6.6m in 2016 after trams were reintroduced to Birmingham’s city centre and New Street station. The latest forecast for the 12 months from June 2016, when the New Street extension was opened, indicate passenger numbers could top 7m, 2m more than 2015. Further extensions of the metro are planned.

Lanes wins new TfL contract
Lanes Rail has won the entire Lot 2 drainage contract for TfL’s subsurface and BCV lines. The contract covers drainage maintenance work on the Circle, Hammersmith and City, District, Metropolitan, Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines and involves delivering CCTV surveying, acoustic surveying, track drainage maintenance and catch-pit cleaning services.

New bridge concept
Arup and Mabey have installed the world’s first modular glass-fibre, reinforced polymer pedestrian bridge at a Site of Special Scientific Interest for Network Rail in Oxford. Partfunded by RSSB, the post-tensioned bridge is designed to be assembled in hard to reach sites where traditional bridges cannot be installed.

New rail TV series
Love Productions, the company behind the Great British Bake Off, is planning a new series for Channel 4 about building the biggest model railway ever. This will run for 74 miles along Scotland’s Great Glen Way from Fort William to Inverness. Volunteers from the rail sector and beyond will be filmed building the line over a 2 week period from June 19.

Track delivered by sea
Network Rail has used sea transport to deliver 1,100 60-ft rails to Scotland to renew 6.5 miles of track on the Far North line’s Thurso branch, stretching from Thurso Station to Georgemas Junction. The rails were unloaded from RMS Laar at Scrabster Harbour. The sea journey is estimated to have saved 110 road freight journeys and reduced carbon emissions by around 200 tonnes.

Near miss investigation
Two track workers narrowly avoided being struck by a passenger train on its final approach to Euston station, on 28 February 2017. The train was travelling on a line that the workers believed had been blocked to traffic to allow engineering work to take place. The driver stopped the train to report the first near miss, was given the all clear to continue and then encountered the second worker. No injuries occurred, but the incidents are being investigated.

Lime Street timesaver
While Liverpool Lime Street was closed for emergency repairs after a collapsed wall sent 200 tonnes of rubble across all four tracks on Tuesday 28 February, engineers seized the opportunity to bring forward a series of railway improvements. These included demolishing buildings near the station and installing under-track crossings channels for power cables.