Rail Industry Focus


GNGE completes phase four of five

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Aug/Sept 2014

Neil Lindley, delivery director for the GNGE project, gives RTM an update on the phase four works.

Work on the Great Northern Great Eastern (GNGE) Joint Line upgrade has passed another major milestone, with 15 miles of signalling and 15 modernised level crossings brought into service during phase four of the project this summer.

During the commissioning period, 25 July to 11 August, Network Rail engineers worked round-the-clock to deliver the work from Sleaford North Junction to Gosberton.

Throughout the 16-day temporary closure of the railway, 1930s mechanical technology was replaced with modern electronic systems now controlled from Network Rail’s Lincoln Signalling Control Centre (SCC).

Network Rail’s GNGE Alliance partners have been delivering the works along the route of the £280m scheme: Siemens has been delivering the signalling works, Babcock the track works, and Carillion the civils elements.

These will collectively allow the GNGE Joint Line to become the primary route for daytime freight traffic and permit parallel growth in passenger services on the core ECML route.

In view of the size of the scheme, and its geographic and operational coverage, the programme has been split into five phases. Phases one and three of the work, between Sleaford and Gainsborough, were completed earlier in 2014.

A multi-disciplinary renewal

Speaking about the recently completed fourth phase, Neil Lindley, delivery director for the GNGE project, told RTM: “We have delivered a multi-disciplinary renewal, approximately 15 miles worth of infrastructure, which includes signalling, telecoms, level crossings and track works across that section delivered by a range of our Alliance partners and sub-contractors.”

He added that during the latest works, the fact that the team delivered 15 upgraded level crossings was quite an achievement. “Annually, Network Rail LNE would only commission around 20. So in this phase, we’ve done three-quarters of what usually would be done in a year,” said Lindley.

Achieving all this in a single commissioning window was quite a challenge, Lindley told us, especially as 10 level crossings were upgraded to MCBOD (manually controlled barrier with obstacle detector) types. “This has been the largest MCBOD commissioning in the UK,” he said. Two of the remaining five level crossings were upgraded to MCB CCTV (manually controlled barrier with CCTV) and three to automatic half-barriers.

“By removing the old Victorian mechanical system, this moves the old methods into the 21st century,” said Lindley. “The benefits it brings are that the new signalling system all ties back centrally to Lincoln SCC, which reduces operational costs significantly on the route. The new signalling system will convert the old manually controlled switches and crossings into power-operated points, and also enables an improved overall journey time across the entire route for train and passenger performance.”

On top of this, Network Rail has installed and commissioned a brand new FTN (Fixed Telecoms Network) communications network across the whole system that supports the new signalling. It is expected that the new, fully-automated signalling systems should reduce barrier down-time at level crossings and help reduce congestion at these locations.


As well as carrying out the signalling upgrades, there were challenges to keep the existing railway running while trying to install the new technology that sits alongside the existing equipment and infrastructure.

The Alliance partners also had to upgrade 15 miles of route during the commissioning period. Lindley said: “It has been important to communicate with all the local stakeholders, including parish councils, farming communities and the logistics sector. In order for us to minimise disruption to these stakeholders, we have really tried to understand what their needs are and how to take those into account when planning these commissionings and the sequencing of the road closures and diversions.

“I believe that we’ve worked hard to minimise disruption along the route, but if you look at what we’ve already done through phases one and three, we’ve had some really positive feedback from the end-users and stakeholders. Many believe they have a quieter railway and there is less disruption at the new level crossings, already.”

Lindley also outlined that the Alliance structure has been a significant learning curve with regards to the people, systems and processes involved. As part of the project, the partners centralised their delivery offices in Peterborough and had all its delivery functions running from there.

“I’ve witnessed four companies that have collaboratively worked together to deliver the GNGE project so far,” Lindley said. “We have adopted the best practices from each organisation to deliver the best outcomes for the project. For me the Alliance method is the only way the project could be delivered.”

Revamped schedule

Network Rail’s obligation was to deliver the GNGE project in CP4, with the exception of work associated with providing a suitable capacity connection at the south end of the GNGE route. However, the slip of colliery spoil material at Hatfield, Stainforth, in February 2013 resulted in all freight traffic from Immingham ports being diverted via the GNGE line.

As a result access to the line of route for the project team was severely restricted and, having lost two signalling commissioning exercises, the project was subject to a complete re-plan. The obligation is now November 2014 as the GRIP6 completion date.

After completing phase four on time, the project team has started work on phase two of the scheme between Doncaster and Gainsborough.

During just 16 days engineers will replace and repair bridges and lower tracks, so modern, taller containers can travel along the line. However, work on the highways over three level crossings will mean they can be upgraded with modern technology later this year.

The bridges being replaced, which carry the railway across roads and waterways, are across Gainsborough Road, the Chesterfield Canal and Soss Lane. The level crossings receiving highways modernisation works during this period included Auckley, Beech Hill and North Carr.

Lindley, speaking to RTM at the end of August, said: “At present, we around North Carr, mainly doing the civils-related works in connection to this level crossing. So, it is more of the P-way renewals works, decking and highway works and associated civils signalling works. The schemes for the three level crossings in phase two aren’t due to be fully commissioned, signalling-wise, until late November.

“Also, we have three new U-deck underbridges to put in, we have large structural repairs and P-way renewals works to the large structure that passes over the ECML. We have longitudinal timber replacement works and three new level crossings that will be commissioned during this phase, along with many miles of earthworks and embankment stabilisation works. But so far the commissioning of phase two is going well and to programme, and it is due to be completed on 1 September.”

The bridge works were originally meant to be completed in October 2013, but they too were affected by the Hatfield Colliery landslip and had to be cancelled.

“Working closely with the national route planning team, the other Alliance partners and TOCs and freight operating companies, we were able to agree a new access strategy, which formed part of the phase two blockade to deliver the work on these three structures in one blockade instead of three different ones,” said Lindley.  He added that work is progressing well and, once complete, these three bridges will be the last three structures to be completed north of Lincoln.

“So, once these are completed it secures the GNGE works for achieving the final sign-off for tonnage capacity across the northern section of the route,” said Lindley.

However, there is still work to be done with phase five – between Spalding and Peterborough – commissioning left for October/November.

“During this stage, we still have various smaller elements of track renewals to be completed and the main commissioning of phase five, which is 13 miles of new signalling system and 10 level crossings that have to be commissioned.

“There is an existing overbridge structure there, WEB/1, which is to be completed. And once we’ve got that done, we revert back to phase two to commission the last three level crossings and, hopefully, we’ll achieve our overall milestone of improvements to the line speed, tonnage and gauge,” Lindley concluded.

The level crossings modernised in phase four

• Blotoft (Old Forty Foot Drain, Helpringham/Donington) – MCB OD

• Maltings Lane (Ing Drove, Donington) – Automatic half-barrier

• Golden High Hedges (Bull’s Bank/Cowdale Drove, Donington) – MCB OD

• Church Lane (Church End Drove, Quadring) – MCB OD

• Quadring (Town Drove, Quadring) – Automatic half-barrier

• Brewery Lane (North Gate, Gosberton) – MCB OD

• Gosberton (B1397 – Station Road, Gosberton) – MCB OD

• Cheal Road (Cheal Road, Gosberton Risegate) – MCB OD

• Water Drove (Gubbole’s Drove, Surfleet) – MCB OD

• Burtey Fen (Burtey Fen Lane, Pinchbeck) – MCB OD

• Flax Mill (Langhole Drove, Pinchbeck) – MCB OD

• Cherry Holt (Mill Green Road/Cherry Holt Lane, Pinchbeck) – Automatic half-barrier

• Blue Gowt (Blue Gowt Lane, Pinchbeck) – MCB OD

• Mill Green (Woolram Wygate, Spalding) – MCB CCTV

• Park Road (Park Road, Spalding) – MCB CCTV

GNGE phases map

GNGE phases (see map)

Phase two – Decoy North Junction to Gainsborough Trent Junction

Phase one – Beckingham Junction to Pyewipe Junction

Phase three – Branston & Washingborough to Sleaford South Junction

Phase four – Sleaford North Junction to Gosberton

Phase five – Spalding to Werrington Junction

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