30-tonne main span of Hitchin flyover lifted into place overnight. The most significant stage in a major project to improve services on one of Britain’s major rail routes took place over the weekend, as the main span of a new rail overbridge was lifted into place.
The Hitchin flyover will see trains for the line to Cambridge and Ely leave the East Coast Main Line on a new stretch of railway, avoiding the current flat junction just north of the town’s station. They will then cross the existing main line on a bridge and rejoin the old Cambridge route almost a mile to the east of the town.
Network Rail succeeded in lifting the 300 tonne main span of this bridge into position early on Sunday morning, using a 1200-tonne crane for the purpose.
Despite the weight and delicacy of the operation, it took just an hour and a half to drop the span and bolt it into place.
Network Rail’s route managing director Phil Verster said: “The Hitchin flyover will make a real difference to passengers who travel on the East Coast Main Line, as well as people travelling to Cambridge and beyond.
“Trains will run more reliably and punctually, and we will have cleared one of the major bottlenecks on the route.
“Lifting the main span into place is a milestone in the project and a sign that we are on track to deliver those benefits.”
Today, trains travelling from London King’s Cross have to cross three other lines to switch between the East Coast Main Line and the line to Cambridge. This reduces capacity for other services and makes the railway less reliable when delays occur.
The new rail link will avoid these problems completely, cutting delays to train services by nearly 30,000 minutes every year and helping create the capacity to run more services when future timetables are developed.
The total cost of the project, from the very earliest stages on the drawing board to completion, is expected to be £47m. Passengers can expect to travel on the new stretch of line by early 2014.