Major improvement work on the railway between Warrington and Preston was successfully completed this morning after nine consecutive days of intensive engineering. Four life-expired junctions were replaced and three miles of track re-laid to help increase line speeds and make journeys more reliable and punctual for passengers.
During one of the hottest weeks of the year, a team of 720 men and women were on site 24 hours a day to deliver this significant investment. Over 900 barrels of water were consumed and 3,000 bottles of sun cream used as track temperatures rose as high as 46C.
Train services resumed this morning and were running at a speed of 80mph across one of the new junctions. This is the first time Network Rail has been able to reopen lines at this speed following major engineering work. Usually, 50mph speed restrictions are put in place to test the track but the longer closure meant all necessary checks could take place in advance, helping minimise disruption to passengers.
Martin Frobisher, area director for Network Rail, said: “I was in the cab of the first test train over the line this morning and I’m pleased that under some tough weather conditions we’ve been able to deliver on time, this vital improvement which will make journeys on the west coast main line more reliable and punctual. I would like to thank passengers for their support and cooperation during the closure, as well as our industry partners who we worked very closely with to prepare for and deliver this critical project.”
Usually, Network Rail would have carried out work of this kind over a number of bank holiday weekends requiring train services to be replaced repeatedly by alternative transport. By carrying out the work in a nine-day continuous spell this summer, engineers were able to complete the replacement of four junctions around 16 months earlier to avoid disrupting rail travel plans for many weekends and nine bank holidays over the next two years.
Phil Bearpark, Production Director for Virgin Trains added: “I congratulate the engineering team at Network Rail for completing this very challenging piece of work on time. A key section of the West Coast Main Line will now immediately provide better reliability for our customers and in the longer term is another stepping stone in our quest for faster journey times for Anglo Scottish services”
Lee Wasnidge, Area Director for Northern, adds: “Thanks to this essential improvement project, we’ll be able to provide a better, more reliable service for our customers on a revitalised piece of railway. Considering the extremely warm weather and the busy summer holiday period, I’d really like to thank our customers for their patience during the disruption as well as our area teams on the ground for their commitment and diligence to keeping everyone on the move.”