A MAJOR £19 million signalling renewal scheme at one of the North West’s busiest rail junctions is helping to secure the future of the region’s rail network and ensure the successful modernisation of the West Coast Main Line.
In a nine day project during the August Bank Holiday at Longsight, just South of Manchester Piccadilly, engineers will work around the clock to replace vital signalling equipment which has not seen any significant investment since 1958.
And the man at the helm of the upgrade is civil engineer James Martin, head of the West Coast Route Modernisation for Network Rail. Explained James: `What we have in effect is a signalling system that is now almost 50 years old and has reached the end of its operational life. This project is a like for like replacement of the equipment at Longsight, which will provide a more reliable and efficient system for the next 30 to 40 years.’
Major preparatory work involving detailed planning, design and construction has already started on the project, including the use of specialist equipment to drill under the tracks to install the new cabling required. The main commissioning works will then take place from the 23rd August to the 1st September.
`Due to the nature of the signalling equipment that we are installing, the work has to be interlinked, almost like a chain of events, which is why during the actual commissioning we have to install the key components over nine consecutive days as opposed to weekends. It also means that we can complete the works far more quickly and with less disruption than during traditional weekend working,’ said Project Manager Martin Whyatt.
During the works and throughout the 2003/04 timetable, a special hourly service will connect Manchester Piccadilly to London St Pancras, whilst trains will continue to run into Piccadilly from the North and the East, including the north and south trans Pennine services. Platforms 13 and 14 will also retain services to the North including local North Manchester services, Liverpool, Preston and Carlisle.
Diversionary services will also be put in place and there will be a road replacement service connecting Piccadilly to the smaller local stations and also servicing Manchester Airport. There will also be diversionary routes for Freight traffic.
Commented Tim Clarke, Regional Director for Network Rail’s North West Region: `We will be working very closely with the local train operators and other stakeholder groups to ensure people can continue to get from A to B during the works, as was successfully demonstrated in December 1998 when we remodelled the tracks at Piccadilly Stations’ entrance.
`Once complete, we will also be able to offer a renewed system with improved reliability, securing the operational future of the rail network in this area for many years to come.’
Full details of amended travel arrangements for this period will be publicised by the industry within the next few months, supported by a comprehensive communications campaign.
Added James Martin: `It is a hugely challenging summer for the West Coast project and indeed the railways, with works of a scale and intensity not seen since the 1800’s. Indeed, one of the key reasons for choosing the nine days for the Longsight works was to coincide with a major project at Bourne End north of Hemel Hempstead, which will enable us to get the disruptive works out of the way in one main push. But once complete, we will see a new 125mph railway by Winter 2004, providing greater reliability, efficiency and reduced journey times.’