Check before you travel ahead of Easter railway upgrades: Work at Norton Bridge, near Stafford

Thursday 25 Feb 2016

Check before you travel ahead of Easter railway upgrades

London North Western

Millions of passengers will benefit from major railway improvements being carried out this Easter – but they are being urged to check before they travel as some journeys will be affected over the bank holiday weekend.

As part of its £40bn Railway Upgrade Plan, Network Rail will carry out the biggest ever Easter investment programme to help provide passengers with a better, more reliable railway. To do this there will be some changes to the normal timetable as the quieter period of travel is maximised to deliver the most amount of work.

In the West Midlands, the £250m upgrade of the railway between Stafford and Crewe will be virtually completed when a new flyover at Norton Bridge opens to trains, removing one of the last bottlenecks on the West Coast main line.

Elsewhere, a major junction – which allows trains to change tracks and routes – is being replaced between Birmingham and Wolverhampton to make it more reliable in the future. This will mean there will be a significantly reduced service between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton over the Easter weekend and for the Tuesday and Wednesday afterwards.

Passengers are being advised to check before they travel over the Easter bank holiday weekend either with their train operator or at

Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “We are advising passengers to check before they travel over the Easter bank holiday and in some locations after that, as we make a big investment to provide passengers with a better railway.

“At Stafford, our orange army will be working day and night to link the new flyover – which will carry trains between Birmingham and Manchester over the West Coast main line at Norton Bridge – to the rail network. This will remove one of the last major bottlenecks on the route and to help deliver the capacity to run more freight and passenger services.

“The upgrade between Birmingham and Wolverhampton is essential to maintain a reliable infrastructure and involves a significant amount of work. It has been carefully planned to be completed as safely and quickly as possible.

“I appreciate there will be some disruption as a result of this work and I’d like to thank passengers for their patience while we carry out this investment to provide a better railway.”

Steven Fisher, head of regional services at London Midland, said: "These projects will make train travel simpler and provides much needed capacity. They will make it easier for trains from London, the midlands and the north west to pass through the area meaning passengers can expect more reliable journeys."

Phil Bearpark, executive director operations and projects for Virgin Trains, said: "We understand that improvement works impact on passengers. Passengers who are travelling on the West Coast Mainline over the Easter period should check their journey before they travel. We have worked closely with Network Rail and industry partners to ensure alternative travel arrangements are in place wherever possible and to keep disruption to a minimum whilst this important work is carried out.”

CrossCountry managing director, Andy Cooper, said: “We have worked closely with our industry colleagues to keep disruption from these works to a minimum, but anyone planning to travel by train over Easter should check their journey as there will be some changes to services between Birmingham and Manchester. However, the long term benefits to our customers from this will be faster journeys between these cities and more capacity to meet growing demand for rail travel.”

An Arriva Trains Wales spokesperson said:


“ We are asking all our customers who travel between Birmingham and Shrewsbury to check their journey plans before they travel as our services will be departing earlier than usual  in both directions over this period”


“ A rail replacement bus service will be running between Chester and Manchester Piccadilly on Saturday and Sunday and between Chester and Warrington Bank Quay on Easter Friday and  Easter Monday.  Passengers are advised  to leave more time for their journey and we regret that dogs ( except Guide Dogs), cycles, prams and large items of luggage cannot be carried on replacement bus services.”

The upgrade at Norton Bridge, near Stafford, is the culmination of more than four years’ work to allow trains travelling to and from Birmingham and Manchester, via Stoke-on-Trent, to travel over the existing railway on a newly built bridge, rather than having to slow down and criss-cross the existing tracks. This will help to reduce congestion on the line – as trains currently have to slow down to change direction – and help provide additional capacity as it allows more trains to travel through the area which is on one of the busiest rail routes in Europe..

The work will mean London Midland, CrossCountry and Virgin services through the Stafford area are affected from the last trains on Thursday 24 March to the first trains on Tuesday 29 March.

The work between Birmingham and Wolverhampton will significantly reduce the number of trains between the two cities but will last for an additional two days after the Easter weekend.

On top of the work at Stafford over 15,000 members of Network Rail’s orange army will be working over the Easter weekend across Britain to deliver a £60m package of work as part of the £40bn Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better, more reliable railway for passengers. New station facilities, longer platforms, extra tracks, new junctions and thousands of pieces of new, more reliable equipment will be installed and delivered.

Over 450 projects will be carried out, the majority of which will have no impact on passengers. The work is timed to take advantage of a quieter time of the year when, on average, fewer than half the usual 4.5m people use the railway each day – enabling Network Rail and train operators to minimise disruption as much as possible.

Passengers from the West Midlands may also be affected by work taking place in the Manchester area and on the route to London Euston via Northampton. Check for the latest information before travelling.



Notes to editors:

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail’s £40bn spending plan for Britain’s railways for the five year period up to 31 March 2019. The plan is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to tremendous growth the railways have seen – a doubling of passengers in the past twenty years. The plan will deliver a bigger, better railway with more trains, longer trains, faster trains with more infrastructure, more reliable infrastructure and better facilities for passengers, especially at stations

Stafford Area Improvements Programme:

With unprecedented levels of passenger and freight growth on the rail network and the West Coast main line full to capacity within the next five years, the Staffordshire Area Improvements Programme seeks to remove a major bottleneck through the Stafford area.

Once complete, the £250m programme will facilitate the introduction of new timetables between 2015 and 2017 and create the capability to deliver:

  • Two extra trains per hour (off peak, each direction) between London and the north west of England
  • One extra fast train per hour (each direction) between Manchester and Birmingham
  • One extra freight train per hour (each direction) through Stafford


The programme will deliver this through the following three key projects:

  • Phase 1 – Linespeed improvements between Crewe and Norton Bridge, increasing the line speed on the ‘slow’ lines from 75mph to 100mph. Completed in March 2014, these works included modifications to the overhead line equipment and installation of four new signals.
  • Phase 2 – Stafford resignalling. The installation of a new freight loop and the replacement of life expired signalling, telecoms and power supplies, with the signalling control transferred from the existing Stafford No4 and No5 signal boxes to Rugby, plus the installation of bi-directional signalling for all platforms and an increase in the ‘slow’ line speeds (predominantly used by local passenger/freight services) from 75mph to 100mph between Great Bridgeford (near Norton Bridge) and Stafford. Running from spring 2014 to late 2015 (with an August 2015 commissioning), the majority of these works will be delivered during weekends and midweek nights.
  • Phase 3 – Norton Bridge remodelling. The construction of a grade-separated junction (flyover) at Norton Bridge, including 6 miles of new 100mph railway, 10 new bridge structures and one bridge enhancement, four river diversions, major environmental mitigation works, pipeline, road and footpath diversions and the construction of temporary haul roads. Main works are scheduled to run to 2017, with key commissionings in 2016. As a project of national significance, the Norton Bridge project has been the subject of a Development Consent Order application which was approved by the Secretary of State for Transport in March of this year following a consultation process dating back to 2010.

Staffordshire Alliance - The Stafford Area Improvements Programme is being delivered by the Staffordshire Alliance – a partnership of Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Network Rail and VolkerRail, working as part of a new collaborative contract that will help to transform the delivery of rail infrastructure projects in the UK.

Virgin trains arrangements:

  • From Friday 25-Monday 28 March – London to/from Birmingham New Street/Wolverhampton, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime Street, Glasgow Central & Edinburgh will be affected. This means alterations or reduced services.
  • On Monday 28 March – London to/from Birmingham New Street/Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury, as well as London to/from Manchester Piccadilly will be affected
  • On Tuesday 29 & Wednesday 30 March – London to/from Birmingham New Street/Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury will be affected

Cross Country Train arrangements:

  • From Friday 25 to Monday 28 March an hourly train service will operate between Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham New Street with journey times extended by approximately 20 minutes. Trains will not call at Wolverhampton.
  • Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 March trains between Manchester Piccadilly – Birmingham New Street will be affected with some services unable to call at Wolverhampton. Journey times will remain unaffected.  

London Midland arrangements:

  • Friday 25 until Monday 28 March - works between Stafford and Crewe affect train services in both directions between London Euston and Crewe and between Birmingham New Street and Liverpool Lime Street and a revised timetable will be in operation. A rail replacement coach service will operate in both directions between Crewe and Stafford and between Stoke-on-Trent, Stone and Stafford
  • Friday 25 until Wednesday 30 March - works between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton affect train services in both directions between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton. There will also be alterations to services between Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury and between Birmingham New Street and Liverpool Lime Street. A rail replacement coach service will operate in both directions between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton, calling at local stations. A revised timetable will also operate in both directions between Lichfield and Redditch on the ‘Cross City’ line, and between Rugeley, Walsall to Birmingham New Street
  • Further information on London Midland’s services between Friday 25 and Wednesday 30 March is available on the London Midland website at

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office -London North Western route
0330 854 0100

About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 36,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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