Improving overhead line reliability on the West Coast Main Line

Improving overhead line reliability on the West Coast Main Line

Network Rail is delivering a major investment programme to reduce delays caused by overhead line failures on the busiest section of the West Coast Main Line.

After literally walking the 80 miles of route between London and Rugby, a specialist Network Rail engineering team identified a series of improvements that could be made to the overhead lines and reduce delays on the southern end of the route.

Dyan Crowther, route managing director, Network Rail said: “We are currently delivering a series of projects to improve the performance of our infrastructure on the southern end of the West Coast main line, which is one of Britain’s most vital rail arteries”.

“This line has seen tremendous growth in traffic and passengers over the last five years and, just like a busy motorway during rush hour, more trains mean that if something goes wrong, the knock on effects can be significant. The work we are doing to improve the overhead lines is part of a £40m package of investment aimed at improving performance by targeting some of the most common causes of delay.”

Much of the overhead line infrastructure on the southern end of the West Coast Mail Line dates from when the line was electrified in the 1960s. In November 2012, following a six-month secondment to Network Rail, Chris Gibb, chief operating officer of Virgin Trains, published his recommendations for how Network Rail could improve performance on the southern end of the West Coast Main Line. The report identified overhead line faults as one of the major causes of delay.

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Chris Gibb, Chief Operating Officer for Virgin Trains added: “The cost of carrying out this work will show an immediate and positive return by improving performance for passenger and freight operators who use the southern end of the West Coast Main Line. The pace at which Network Rail and its contractors are getting on with this shows a determination to really get to grips with performance.”

The package of improvements to the overhead lines is worth around £7.6m and is being delivered by a specialist team of engineers from Network Rail, SPL Powerlines UK (Siemens) and ABC (Alstom, Babcock, Costain) who are working five night shifts every week until the project completes in March 2014.

The work includes removing defects, adjusting equipment, improving the operational performance of neutral sections and high level inspection at major junctions. The team are also removing obsolete components such as old auxiliary wires which present a reliability risk.