Wednesday 26 Jun 2013
First passenger services start using Hitchin flyover
- Work on £47m scheme to remove major bottleneck completed to help reduce delays and increase future capacity
- Driver training programme has begun ahead of December 2013 timetable change, when more passengers will start feeling benefits of investment
The first passenger services have started to use the new Hitchin flyover after Network Rail completed work to build the new stretch of track, which will make the railway more reliable, reduce delays and provide extra capacity in future.
Until now, First Capital Connect trains travelling from London King’s Cross have had to cross three other lines to switch between the East Coast Main Line and the line to Cambridge. This makes the railway less reliable when delays occur and limits capacity on one of the busiest lines in the country.
The new rail link will avoid these problems completely, cutting delays to train services by nearly 30,000 minutes every year and helping create the capacity to run more services when future timetables are developed.
First Capital Connect will run up to three services a day over the flyover, but by December – when they will have trained around 300 drivers on the new route – almost 600 trains a week will use the 2km single-track rail link.
Network Rail route managing director, Phil Verster, said: "The Hitchin flyover will make a real difference to passengers who travel on the East Coast Main Line, as well as people travelling to Cambridge and beyond. Improving the railway at Hitchin will solve the problems caused by the current track layout and help meet growing demand on the railway.
"The new layout means trains will run more reliably and punctually. The work we have done has cleared one of the major bottlenecks on the route and is part of our wider effort to improve performance and increase capacity on the railway.”
Jackie Townsend, director of operations for First Capital Connect, said: "This flyover significantly reduces the risk of delays at one of Britain's busiest railway junctions. Passengers travelling north to Letchworth, Cambridge and King's Lynn will see fewer hold-ups as a result of this work.
“We have worked closely with Network Rail to ensure the flyover delivers real improvements for our passengers and we look forward to working with them on other ways to improve our customers’ journeys in the future.”
East Coast operations director Danny Williams said: “The Hitchin flyover is a very welcome and keenly anticipated improvement, which delivers a simpler track layout, extra capacity and improved reliability at this very busy location.
“In the past Hitchin has been one of the most congested locations on the southern section of the East Coast Main Line. The benefits of this project will be seen by our passengers for years to come.”
Notes to editors
Attached with this release are: photographs of the works and a timelapse of the work over the last 18 months.
First Capital Connect, like all train operating companies, complies with stringent safety standards to ensure that drivers have been properly trained in the characteristics, manoeuvres and signal layouts of all the routes they drive. From the week beginning June 24, drivers will be accompanied by trainers with the full knowledge of the route.
The flyover will add approximately one minute to northbound journeys and First Capital Connect timetables will be updated to reflect this change.
Over the past decade, the number of passengers travelling between Peterborough and London has increased by 35% with an 18% increase in journeys between London and Cambridge. This growth is expected to continue in the long term, as is freight traffic.
Trains travelling south from Cambridge to London will continue to use their normal route, as they do not have to cross any other tracks. The Hitchin Flyover project has been a pilot for greater integration between Network Rail and main contractor Hochtief, with the formation of a project ‘alliance’ to oversee the work and encourage efficiencies.
Hitchin is part of a number of projects to increase capacity on East coast Main line. We are working on a number of schemes to improve train journeys and create capacity including:
1) A new passenger line and platforms between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace to ease congestion
2) Major junction remodelling at Shaftholme (near Doncaster) and Holgate (near York)
3) New platforms at Peterborough station and platform extensions
4) Enhancements on the route between Peterborough and Doncaster, via Lincoln, to provide an alternative freight route and create extra capacity on the East Coast main line for passenger trains.
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We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
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