As one of Europe’s biggest civil engineering projects drew to a close yesterday new opportunities for millions of rail passengers opened up. The last piece of work on Network Rail’s £9bn upgrade of the London-Scotland West Coast main line was completed yesterday (Sunday Dec 7, 2008) at Rugby, heralding a step-change in the frequency and speed of train services from next weekend.
The achievement is massive and the result will be a quantum leap in services. As of December 14 over 1,000 extra trains every week, will run and journey times slashed by up to 30%. Freight users will enjoy a 70% increase in capacity while weekend passengers travelling to places such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham will also benefit with shorter journey times and more services.
Iain Coucher, Network Rail’s chief executive said: “It has been a long road to this day, but Network Rail has delivered West Coast on the day we said we would. The infrastructure is now ready for next weekend for the introduction of new, faster, more frequent services across the route."
Although the new timetable sees a massive step-change in the level of service on the route, it will be a gradual ramp-up to the introduction of the full timetable. The 50% increase in services to Manchester and Birmingham and the almost doubling of services at the weekends will be introduced immediately - over 1,000 trains in all, per week - but there will be a phasing in of all the new services over a six week period as we allow time for the new timetable to bed in. A further 100+ services will be introduced gradually over the next six weeks, with the last tranche on 26th January 2009.
Mr Coucher continued: "This has been an extraordinarily complex project to rebuild Europe’s busiest mixed-use railway. Now it is complete passengers and freight operators will reap the benefits. Network Rail has made good on decades of underinvestment, and will continue to invest in the route in the years ahead as demand continues to grow.
“When Network Rail took over this critical project it was a mess. Railtrack left the scheme billions of pounds over budget and undeliverable. Five years down the line, learning the lessons from New Year, Network Rail has re-written the rule book on project delivery, successfully hitting over a dozen key milestones in 2008.”
The scale of the job
- Changes to all 13 major junctions on the route, including a significant bottleneck at Rugby, enabling trains to travel at up to 125mph
- Laying more than 36 kilometres of new track through the Trent Valley, meaning that four tracks now run nearly all the way from London to Crewe
- 174 new or altered bridges
- 53 new or extended platforms at places like Milton Keynes and Manchester Airport
- Replacing over 800 points (the bits of track that move trains from one line to another)
- Line speed improvements across the whole line, including between Preston, Carlisle and Motherwell and between London Euston and Wembley
- Putting up over 11,000 structures
- Over three million yards of rail, ballast and sleepers have been laid
Notes to editors
1) Following the overrun at Rugby in January 2008, Network Rail rewrote the rule book for carrying out major pieces of work. This has enabled us to successfully deliver the final £750m of complex work on the West Coast while keeping the railway running where possible. Improvements to processes include:
• More detailed, earlier planning and risk reviews
• Rigorous analysis of critical resources and manpower
• Military style command posts set up to control and oversee the work
2) Eighteen major pieces of work have been successfully completed on the West Coast since Easter 2008, including:
• Easter bank holiday - Nuneaton complete
Milton Keynes complete
• May Day bank holiday - Trent Valley complete
• Spring bank holiday - Trent Valley complete
Milton Keynes complete
• 29 June - Milton Keynes complete
• w/c 6 July & 13 July - Milton Keynes complete
• w/c 20 July - Rugby complete
• August bank holiday - Harlesden complete
Milton Keynes complete
• w/c 1 September - Stoke complete
• w/c 8 September - Lichfield complete
• Weekends in November Rugby complete
Crewe Weaver complete
• 6/7 December Rugby last piece of work, complete
3) When Network Rail took over management of the West Coast project in 2003 the final cost had spiralled to £14.5bn (Source: National Audit Office report, November 2006). The projected cost today is £9bn, well within the £9.9bn estimate made in 2003.
4) Although the project is complete, further planned improvement work will be undertaken at a couple of locations on the West Coast over the weekend of 27th & 28th December. There will also be work at weekends between Preston and Glasgow, starting in February.
More detail on the scale of the work Network Rail has delivered at key sites is available at www.networkrail.co.uk
About Network Rail
Network Rail is the not for dividend owner and operator of Britain's railway infrastructure, which includes the tracks, signals, tunnels, bridges, viaducts, level crossings and stations - the largest of which we also manage. We aim to provide a safe, reliable and efficient rail infrastructure for freight and passenger trains to use. www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk