Full speed ahead
Source: Rail Technology Magazine Feb/March 2012
Drought conditions have disrupted services on parts of the Fen Line in Norfolk. Network Rail’s Sam Kelly tells RTM how this issue is being tackled to bring train services back up to speed.
Speed restrictions are gradually being lifted on the Fen Line, reducing the amount of delays to passengers waiting for services between King’s Lynn and London.
Dry weather in the region over the last six months, with below average rainfall and above average temperatures, has caused peat soil under the track to dry out and shrink.
This affected the track, which could move unexpectedly and become “bumpy”. In some cases, this also caused the track to move out of alignment with the overhead wires.
Drivers have to slow down to negotiate the areas that were worst affected, travelling at a mere 40mph due to TSRs. Network Rail is working to raise these limits, and bring service reliability back up for passengers.
Network Rail’s Sam Kelly said: “Passengers have experienced delays to services on the Fen Line between Ely and King’s Lynn recently. These are the result of speed restrictions imposed along some stretches of track.”
She went on to explain the programme of work Network Rail has underway to stabilise the track bed. Speed restrictions can now be gradually lifted on affected sections before removing the restrictions altogether.
This work includes the removal of a number of trees alongside the track to stabilise the soil near the track, adding extra ballast and tamping the track to make it firmer. It will cover the whole route between King’s Lynn and Littleport, not just the areas that currently have speed restrictions in place.
Kelly added: “While the work is done we will use a high-tech inspection train to examine the track and identify if any further work is needed.
“Following the first phase of this work we have increased a 40mph restriction to 60mph between Littleport and Downham Market. While this is still slower than the usual line speed, it is a step towards removing the restrictions altogether,” she continued.
“Our aim is to remove all speed restrictions in the coming weeks, provided the ground conditions continue to improve as planned.
“We understand that journey times are affected by these speed restrictions and are sorry for any delays people experience while we deal with this issue.”
A mammoth undertaking
Services between King’s Lynn and London are run by First Capital Connect. In a statement, the operator said: “We have been asked why we can’t amend the timetable to include the delays.
“It is a mammoth undertaking to rewrite the timetable; it takes many months to create and agree with other train operating companies, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. This is one of the reasons why we have only two timetable changes a year.”
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