This year will see key milestones reached in several large projects as part of a programme of more than £1bn of rail improvements in the north of England. Network Rail will deliver track renewals, resignalling and other enhancements, and station upgrades – all with the objective of increasing capacity and reliability for passenger train journeys, improving the passenger experience, and boosting the economy, increasing investment and job opportunities.
Preparatory work started in October 2015 on the Ordsall Chord – a new section of railway linking Manchester’s Piccadilly and Victoria stations, which will open up opportunities for new direct rail links, supporting the delivery of faster, more frequent services to towns and cities across the north of England.
Work to build its foundations began in January this year. In the months ahead, the project will involve resignalling and realignment of the existing track, and existing structures will be removed and their heritage preserved before the main viaduct is built.
“The benefits of the Ordsall Chord are recognised across the north of England, and this significant investment has the support of civic leaders representing more than one million people across the Greater Manchester area.
We want to deliver this vital and long overdue improvement to the railway to benefit the millions of taxpaying passengers who want, and deserve it.
This is the location of the world’s first inter-city railway, opened in 1830 by George Stephenson. Stephenson was an innovator who brought progress. If he was alive today we firmly believe he would build the Ordsall Chord. The old railway is giving birth to the new”, said Nick Spall, route delivery director for Network Rail.
One of Network Rail’s biggest current modernisation projects is the electrification of Britain’s railway. Electrifying lines makes it possible for faster, greener and larger electric trains to run on Britain’s rail network, increasing capacity and providing more reliable journeys.
The lines between Manchester, Liverpool and Wigan have already been electrified, with operator Northern Rail running longer and faster electric trains between the cities since March 2015.
Electrification of the line between Manchester and Preston is progressing well – and is expected to be completed in December 2017.
A key milestone in this project will soon be finished; the final works on the Farnworth Tunnel upgrade project near Bolton started on 23-24 January and will be completed on 30-31 January, allowing line speed restrictions through the new tunnel to be removed. Farnworth Tunnel was created last year to house the electrified lines for the new electric trains.
The installation of the foundations and gantries for electrified cabling (a process known as piling) along the Manchester to Preston route is set to ramp up in February.
Also in February, work will take place on the next phase of electrification, between Manchester Victoria station and Stalybridge, again expected to be completed in December 2017. In 2015, several road bridges were rebuilt on this route to provide space for overhead wires. The next stage will focus on further necessary upgrades, including track and drainage renewals.
Last year’s programme of station improvements as part of the Railway Upgrade Plan saw the transformation of Manchester Victoria, and the creation of a new, more accessible southern entrance to Leeds station.
Residents of West Yorkshire also welcomed a new station at Apperley Bridge – the first new station in the county for 10 years – providing links to work, education and opportunities in Leeds and Bradford.
The underground system in Liverpool is being given a makeover; Network Rail is revamping five of the stations operated by Merseyrail as part of its national stations improvement programme. Work started last year, with platform two and a pedestrian walkway at James Street station getting a brand new look, with original features such as the 19th-century tiling cleaned up and enhanced, and coloured LED lighting being installed.
Liverpool’s Moorfields underground station is currently receiving the upgrade treatment, with improvements to platforms, walkways, and concourse areas for a cleaner, airier environment. Nine of the station’s escalators, which carry 6.5 million passengers a year, are also being refurbished.
Platform three at Moorfields reopened in August last year following its refurbishment. Platform one is currently closed, so trains for Liverpool Central and Hunts Cross won’t stop there until the work is completed in spring 2016, and the third and last platform will also be revamped later this year.
New platforms built at several stations across the north of England, including at Manchester Airport last year and at Huyton and Roby in 2014, will help to boost capacity once wider works are completed. Others are planned for the coming year, with Rochdale being just one of the stations earmarked to benefit.
A focus on safety
Making stations more accessible and safe for passengers was a priority, with improvements such as new lifts and footbridges, as well as raised paving and markings to make platform edges more visible.
One example of this is at Carlisle station, where work started in November 2015 to rebuild eight of the platforms with tactile paving and new surfaces, as well as update its roof with a new covering, extending the life of the Victorian roof structure. Network Rail worked closely with Historic England to plan the refurbishment while protecting the station’s listed status.
Upgrades to the railway between Manchester and Rochdale are part of a wider plan of work starting this year that will improve journey times and provide additional capacity on the Calder Valley line, with a programme of track renewals, bridgeworks and improvements to the signalling system.
In Cheshire, a £17m programme of bridgeworks from February will not only make journeys safer and more reliable for passengers, with bridges strengthened throughout the county, but will also preserve some of Britain’s well-loved railway heritage, as the Grade II-listed Holmes Chapel and Peover viaducts have their brickwork repaired and waterproofed.
(Source: Network Rail)