Posted 2nd September 2008 | No Comments

WCML: 4,000 engineers brought in to work around the clock

Part of the track formation is dug out at Rugby station in preparation for a new subway.

IN a major push to complete key aspects of the £8.8 billion modernisation of the West Coast main line, more than 4,000 engineers worked around-the-clock at seven key sites during and after the August bank holiday.

The crucial work came as Network Rail operations and customer services chief Robin Gisby said the company was under massive pressure to complete the project by the 14 December deadline when Virgin Trains is expected to launch its VHF – Virgin High Frequency – three-an-hour services on the route.

During a special briefing at Lichfield on the Trent Valley part of the route, Mr Gisby told Railnews: “I am confident that the West Coast will be transformed into an intensively used and reliable railway of which everyone can be proud.

“The pressure is on for us to complete in time for the 14 December timetable, which will bring a total of 390 more services a day over the whole of the West Coast main line.

“Also, we need to free our resources for forthcoming major projects such as Thames-link expansion and Reading remodelling.  Our infrastructure performance is down on last year, but we are addressing that by replacing 60 miles of ageing cabling which did not take kindly to being disturbed during the work on the West Coast.

“And we have invested millions in high-tech security in working with British Transport Police to protect our cable from the inevitable attention of thieves.”

One of the biggest areas of work over the bank holiday was at Rugby, scene of the disastrous engineering overrun over the New Year holiday period, which led to Network Rail being fined £14 million by the Office of Rail Regulation.

The problems led to Net-work Rail introducing military style command posts on major schemes.

At Rugby’s three-mile long site, engineers were involved in refurbishing a 450 metre flyover used by trains joining the line from Birmingham, and installing new points and signalling. Two new platforms were also due to be opened and work continued on overhead line modifications and installing a new subway.

Since the engineering overrun problems, which have put the project £50 million over budget, work has progressed well during a series of bank holiday possessions, with signal and track remodelling completed between Rugby and Nuneaton and the newly four-tracked 16-mile section in the Trent Valley.

At Milton Keynes Central, the new down fast line has been commissioned and its new platform 6 brought into use with associated switches and crossings, and a new footbridge installed. Platform extension and overhead line work took place over the holiday.

During and after the holiday period, Trent Valley work was being completed and the new signalling system, which will be controlled from Rugby, commissioned.

In November, new track and signalling will be commission-ed at Rugby and track remodelled to increase line speeds between Crewe and Weaver Junction.

From December the modernised West Coast route is expected to become a truly seven-day-week railway, with high levels of service during the busy Sunday afternoon and early evening periods, so future routine patrol and maintenance work will need to be concentrated at night.

To this end, Network Rail is training its people in new methods of working and has installed additional lighting at key junctions.

During the August bank holiday work, a massive multi-operator rail replacement timetable swung into operation. Virgin Trains, London Midland, CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains and Northern worked closely with Network Rail to minimise disruption for customers travelling between London, Birmingham, Stafford, Crewe, Manchester, Liverpool, Derby and Scotland, with fleets of replacement coaches in action.

During the bank holiday weekend, all Virgin Trains services to Euston terminated at Birmingham International or Coventry, where passengers changed to hourly shuttle trains to London via the Chiltern Line.

On the following Tuesday, coaches and shuttle trains linked Birmingham to Euston via Northampton.

The line between Lichfield Trent Valley, Tamworth and Nuneaton closed completely, and is due to reopen on 8 September, with services running only via Birmingham.

Done by December – Network Rail’s West Coast workload
- 2,984,000 yards of new track installed
- 11,413 new overhead line structures
- 52 platforms modernised or extended
- 178 packages of bridge work completed