Latest Rail News

07.10.15

Farnworth Tunnel at halfway mark, but delay to December still likely

The delayed re-boring of Farnworth Tunnel has now reached the halfway point but December is still the latest estimate for when construction work will be completed, RTM has been told. 

Work on enlarging the tunnel to enable the electrification of the line between Manchester and Preston was due to be complete by 5 October. However, in August, engineers came across “exceptionally poor ground conditions” and ran into “large swathes of sand” in the tunnel, built in 1834. 

Speaking to RTM at the official opening of the refurbished Manchester Victoria station yesterday (6 October), Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “Initially we had a slip, we hit some soft sand, but we are now tunnelling through clay which, as a ground condition, is by far and away the best ground condition for tunnelling. We are making really good progress. 

“We have passed the halfway mark and have done ring 105 of 190. We are getting well on with the project. It really looks like a tunnel.” 

When RTM visited the site in early August, before the team hit the ground trouble, Beth Dale, scheme project manager, told us that the first two permanent rings had been set. So significant progress has been made, but it has been much slower than planned. 

In September, Network Rail said that the tunnel boring machine Fillie – the largest in the UK – was expected to tunnel 5.6m to 7m every 24hrs. But because of the very poor ground conditions, she was only able to bore at a rate of 2.8m every 24hrs. 

Asked whether Network Rail would be changing the completion date, due to the progress that has been made, Frobisher said: “December is still the latest estimate in terms of construction work. We are gathering pace, hitting much better ground conditions, the machine is working well and the guys are settling into a routine of working around the clock and we’ll get it built as fast as we can.” 

Since Saturday 3 October, lanes on the A666 into Bolton have been temporarily closed while engineers enlarge Farnworth Tunnel below the carriageway. This is to ensure progress is made smoothly and safely. 

Discussing the delayed work, Alex Hynes, MD of Northern Rail, said he was expecting the resumption of the railway around Christmas time. 

“I really feel for our customers around that route, and we are working hard with Network Rail and First TransPennine Express that we do the best possible job we can in the interim,” he added. “But, of course, the reason why we are doing Farnworth Tunnel is to electrify the railway and, during the end of next year and early 2017, we will again be replacing two-car diesel trains with four-car electrics. 

“I hope customers, ultimately, will decide that the disruption has been worth it when they can get a seat in the morning.”

Comments

Simon   07/10/2015 at 14:12

I am not an engineer hence the stupid question but was there not any preliminary work which was taken place to assess the condition of the ground prior to the boring taking place and therefore allowing the programme to be changed accordingly given the issues around how poor the ground is? And still the Pacers nod there way through to Bolton and beyond...

Kevin Bennett   09/10/2015 at 14:33

Should have used Freyssinet's BIGABORE method which nibbles back and replaces the tunnel lining piece by piece at night so there's little disruption to passengers.

Grahamh   09/10/2015 at 16:25

What I'm not totally clear about is why, given that the Up tunnel, which was originally dual track and probably had the required clearances already, was not left and the Down tunnel, which was very restricted, not enlarged to the same dimensions as the Up. The single bore solution was always likely to be more of a nightmare, as events have shown. I should add that I am reasonably familiar with the tunnels as I lived near the station as a kid and always wondered about the size difference.

Gbman   12/10/2015 at 15:13

Driving back towards Bolton this morning I noticed the dip in the road over the tunnel seems to be increasing. Definitely a roller coaster effect ! Are the contractors going to confirm the drop ?. Watch this space when we next get a downpour #manmadesinkhole

Rayk   03/11/2015 at 12:22

Simon - It was reported that over 1500 sample bores were taken. Whilst not enough to cover every possibility, you have to weigh up the likelihood of missing a bad spot. Kevin Bennett - A good idea where appropriate. GrahamH - The larger tunnel was S shaped. The new tunnel is a constant curve. Tunnel history is available on Wikipedia under an article titled 'Farnworth Railway Station'. Gbman - Had there been buildings involved there would probably have been expensive grouting done to prevent subsidence as they have done for C. It is much less expensive to resurface the road afterwards.

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