Sunday 14 Dec 2008


Region & Route:
| Eastern: Anglia
| Eastern
| North West & Central
| Southern

The completion of one of Europe’s biggest civil engineering projects means new opportunities for millions of rail passengers, including to and from Northampton. The last piece of work on Network Rail’s £9bn upgrade of the London-Scotland West Coast main line has been completed, heralding a step-change in the frequency and speed of train services.

The achievement is massive and the result will be a quantum leap in services. As of December 14 over 1,100 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.

As a result of the upgrade work Northampton will see significant improvements. These include:

  • more 12 car operation at peak times
  • significant improvements to the north with two trains per hour between Northampton and Birmingham, throughout the day, all day Saturdays and after 1200 on Sundays. These trains will be longer at peak times, made possible by platform extensions at Northampton, Tile Hill and Berkswell
  • new hourly London Midland Trent Valley local service: northwards from Northampton, this will serve Rugby, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield (and other Trent Valley local stations), then continue to Stafford, Stone, Stoke, Kidsgrove, Alsager and Crewe
  • 3 London Midland services between Northampton and Rugby (compared to only 1 now)
  • Significantly improved weekend service, excluding bank holiday weekends. All day on Saturdays, and from 1200 on Sundays, weekday frequencies and journey times will operate

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. I would like to thank everyone in the industry who has worked hard to make this possible and rail users for their patience.

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.”

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) 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. 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. More detail on the scale of the work Network Rail has delivered at key sites is available at

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About Network Rail

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.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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