Thursday 18 Sep 2003


Region & Route:
Transport Minister Dr Kim Howells got an in depth look at the West Coast project yesterday, when he took a trip into Hibel Road railway tunnel at Macclesfield. The tunnel is one of two, both 160 years old, which have been modernised as part of Network Rail’s commitment to rebuild the railway, with similar works also carried out at Prestbury tunnel, where a type of infrastructure known as ‘slab track’ has been installed to allow heavier freight trains to pass through the tunnel. Now complete, the £9 million bridge works have formed part of the 19 week engineering programme on the line from Colwich to Cheadle Hulme, which started in May and is now just 11 days from being handed back into operational service.  During this time, engineers have renewed 71 miles of new track, sleepers and ballast, along with new overhead line equipment, signalling and improvements to 33 structures (including the two bridges). And throughout, passengers have been able to continue their journeys either by train, including the special direct Manchester to London St Pancras service, or for local commuters, by road with a high quality road replacement service. - more - Tunnels-2 Explained Network Rail’s West Coast Project Director James Martin: “The Colwich to Cheadle project is the first major example of the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail’s new West Coast strategy in practice, with long term targeted engineering works ensuring we provide a 125mph railway by September 2004.  Not only is this way much more efficient, it is also safer and enables a much greater degree of productivity.” In the first 13 weeks of the Colwich to Cheadle works, more than 360,000 tonnes of new material was transported into site, compared to a similar amount moved during phase one of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) over a two year period.  The quality of track installed is also similar to that required by the 186mph trains on the CTRL. “To put it into perspective,” said James, “we have effectively constructed the railway equivalent of 25 miles of new motorway in a 12 week period – an almost unprecedented scale of work for the modern railway.” And on Wednesday 17 September the Transport Minister saw first hand the scale of the works when he visited the newly upgraded tunnels at Macclesfield and Prestbury and met the project team, including staff from Network Rail and Edmund Nuttalls. Added James Martin: “We are delighted that the Minister has taken the time out of his busy diary to visit this part of the project, enabling us to give him an overview of the complexities of modernising the West Coast and demonstrate how much work has already been achieved in the last three months, using new and innovative engineering methods”. The Colwich Junction to Cheadle Hulme works, which also includes the electrification of the Crewe to Kidsgrove line, will be fully completed with the route handed back by the end of September when the lines will be open for both passenger and freight services.  Further works will then follow, with engineers working on three of the four lines between Crewe and Norton Bridge (north of Stafford) during weekdays and all four lines at weekends until January 2004.  During this period, trains will be diverted along the newly electrified Crewe to Kidgsrove route.

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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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