Passengers benefiting from £250m railway upgrade between Stafford and Crewe: Opened: £250m Norton Bridge flyover – March 2016

Tuesday 29 Mar 2016

Passengers benefiting from £250m railway upgrade between Stafford and Crewe

Region & Route:
| North West & Central

Passengers are today (29 March) benefiting from a better railway through the Stafford area and can look forward to improved services in future after a new section of track and a key flyover opened to trains at Norton Bridge.

The new railway removes one of the last major bottlenecks on the West Coast main line by allowing trains travelling to Manchester from the south and West Midlands to travel over, rather than across, the existing tracks.

The new railway removes one of the last major bottlenecks on the West Coast main line by allowing trains travelling to Manchester from the south and West Midlands to travel over, rather than across, the existing tracks.

This will help create the capacity for more frequent services through the Stafford area as well as speeding up journeys and improving reliability on the West Coast main line, one of the busiest rail routes in Europe.

The scheme is a £250m investment, part of Network Rail’s £40bn Railway Upgrade Plan, which has also seen new modern, more reliable signalling installed and improvements between Stafford and Crewe to allow trains to travel at faster speeds.

Work has taken place over the last four years and has been delivered on budget and 18 months early.

A key part of the upgrade is the new rail-over-rail flyover which means trains to Manchester, via Stoke-on-Trent, will now travel over the existing lines rather than having to slow down and criss-cross the tracks.

The first train over the new flyover, at Norton Bridge, was the 5.11am CrossCountry service from Manchester to Bournemouth.

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said: “We are investing over £40 billion in our railways in this parliament, which is the biggest upgrade since Victorian times. Not only is this project in Norton Bridge a major engineering achievement, it will also allow trains to travel faster through this area and bring more reliable services to one of the busiest rail routes in Europe, creating better journeys for those travelling across the Stafford region.”

The chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, said: “The opening of the new flyover and railway in the Norton Bridge area marks the culmination of four years’ work which will help provide passengers with a more reliable and better performing railway though the Stafford area on the West Coast main line, one of the busiest rail routes in Europe.

“We have removed one of the last major bottlenecks on the route which will improve the reliability of the railway and speed of trains though the area. It will also help run more freight and passenger services through the area and on the entire West Coast main line in future.

“Building this new railway to help provide improved services for passengers is part of our wider £40bn Railway Upgrade Plan, funded by the government, which will help meet the demands of an increasing number of passengers for many years to come. Our investment also helps the railway support economic growth, job creation and house building around Britain.”

Patrick Verwer, managing director at London Midland, said: “The new track layout at Norton Bridge is a major game changer of trains serving or travelling through Staffordshire. It will allow local and long distance services to pass through the county more easily making better journeys for everyone.”

Phil Bearpark, executive director of operations and projects at Virgin Trains, said: “We’re delighted at the opening of the new section of track on the West Coast Mainline. This is a significant piece of enhancement work that will benefit customers with increased reliability and lead to an improved rail network in the future.”

Andy Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry, said: ““By delivering this investment in increased capacity on the busy West Coast main line, Network Rail has improved the journeys of our customers by allowing us to provide more reliable services now and the prospect of faster journeys between Manchester and Birmingham in the near future.”

The scale of the project is vast with more than 200 engineering trains used to deliver materials to site, removing 5,200 lorry journeys from the local road network. Four rivers have been diverted, 11 new structures built and more than 4,000 men and women were involved in the upgrade.


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 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 were delivered during weekends and midweek nights.

Phase 3 – Norton Bridge remodelling. The construction of a grade-separated junction (flyover) at Norton Bridge, including six miles of new 100mph railway, 11 new structures, four river diversions, major environmental mitigation works, pipeline, road and footpath diversions and the construction of temporary haul roads. The key commissioning of the flyover happened in March 2016 with the project being completed – including track upgrades on the main West Coast main line – later this year. 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 following a consultation process dating back to 2010.

Project in numbers

  • Six miles of new railway
  • Four rivers diverted
  • 11 new structures
  • 1,000 000 tonnes of earth moved on site
  • 200 engineering trains involved on the project – delivering aggregate and installing the new infrastructure
  • 5,200 truck journeys removed around from the local road network by using trains
  • 210 new overhead line structures
  • 7.5 miles of new overhead line
  • 3.5 miles of renewed track on the existing railway
  • More than 4,000 men and women involved in the project
  • Installed 16 new switches and crossings (which allows trains to change tracks)
  • Two of switches and crossings are the joint biggest on the rail network
  • 70 new signal posts and gantries installed
  • 250,000m of signal cable used

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.

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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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