Wednesday 25 Aug 2004
‘ALL ABOARD’ AS MINISTER TOURS IPSWICH TUNNEL OPERATION
- Region & Route:
Dr Kim Howells MP, Minister of State for Transport, and Chris Mole, MP for Ipswich, yesterday paid a visit to the ongoing work at Ipswich rail tunnel in the penultimate week of the eight week closure.
Dr Howells commented: “This is a tremendously impressive project. It’s an idea which first looked impossible, but they came up with an engineering solution. It’s a great achievement.”
The Minister caught the 09.15 ‘one’ train from Liverpool Street, arriving at Manningtree at 10.19. There he was joined by Chris Mole MP for a tour of the temporary car park and bus interchange, built by Network Rail to accommodate the large number of passengers travelling through the station during the closure.
Mr Mole took the opportunity to speak to baggage handlers and commented on the efficiency of the alternative travel operation: “While some disruption to passengers was inevitable, it is clear that the close working partnership between Network Rail and ‘one’ has paid dividends in minimising the effects of the closure and enabling people to get to their destinations.”
The next stop on the tour bus was a visit to Brantham Hall bridge to view the track renewals, planned to coincide with the tunnel closure, being undertaken by Network Rail. The £9 million project to renew 12 miles of track between Ipswich and Manningtree is now 85% complete, and due to conclude along with the tunnel work in just under two weeks’ time.
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The final stop for the Minister’s party was Ipswich tunnel itself, where they were escorted through the tunnel by Mark Livock, Network Rail Project Director. Mr Livock described the stages of work that have been completed, including the removal of existing rails and concrete bed and the installation of a new concrete floor and new track at a level around 12 inches lower than before.
Mr Livock said: “We are delighted to report that the project remains on schedule, with the main bulk of work already complete. The new track inside the tunnel is now in place and secured, and has been re-connected to the railway on either side.
“The final tasks of installing and testing all the necessary track equipment will take place over the next week or so, followed by the final commissioning of overhead wires and signalling systems - all in good time for the tunnel to re-open for passengers on Monday 6 September.”
Dr Howells concluded: “This project is vital, not only for this region but for the whole of the UK. It will mean that we’re a country that can be competitive in handling international freight traffic by rail. With the only alternative being transport on already congested roads, that’s so very important.”
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