Network Rail is to replace 23 miles of track this year on the famous Settle – Carlisle line with virtually no disruption to passenger train services. Work will start in April and be carried out overnight on weekdays, demonstrating the railway owner’s commitment to providing a seven day railway. It also means no complete line closures for weeks at a time, as there have been in previous years.
The £12m project will see the culmination of a five-year plan to replace the majority of the old, jointed railway track on the 72 mile-long line with modern, continuously welded rails. The welded track will give passengers a smoother, quieter ride, reduce wear and tear on train wheels and need less maintenance.
Jo Kaye, Network Rail’s route director, said: “With all the track renewal, signalling improvements and work on bridges and viaducts along the route, we will have invested around £100m in the line over the last five years. This is an incredible amount of money when you consider that British Rail wanted to close it completely not so many years ago.
“Since those dark days, the line has gone from strength to strength. Passenger numbers have rocketed thanks to the efforts of train operator Northern and the various voluntary organisations that promote the line. It is a vital link for coal trains between Scotland and power stations in Yorkshire and the Midlands, and it provides a much needed diversionary route from the west coast main line when improvement work is taking place.”
Most of the work, which will be carried out at 22 different sites, will be on the northbound line, north of Appleby and will take place overnight using the New Track Construction train. Operated by Balfour Beatty Rail Ltd on behalf of Network Rail, the train virtually re-lays the rail track in front of itself, and can cover up to 600 yards of track per night.
South of Appleby, there are seven individual worksites, all on the southbound line.
The work will be carried out in a rolling programme, starting at the northern end of the line and as well as causing minimal disruption to passenger trains, anyone living alongside the railway will also benefit. This is because the construction train can cover between 300 and 600 yards a night so will be in any one location for only a short period of time.
Work is expected to be completed in September.