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Specialist track-laying work begins at Norton Bridge ahead of flyover

A new section of track and 11 new bridges are being built to create a flyover at Norton Bridge in a £250m Network Rail project to remove a major bottleneck on the West Coast Main Line.

The work, which will deliver capacity to run more passengers and freight trains, will see 10km of track laid from the new siding created at Little Bridgeford.

The High Output New Track Construction (NTC) machine being used to lay the track can lay up to 180m per hour and is up to 50% quicker again than conventional track-laying methods.

It transports new sleepers from trailing wagons and puts them onto the conveyor system, which transfers them to the head of the train before they are placed onto the track bed. The sleepers are then aligned to the correct spacing automatically, after which the rail is run through a series of rollers and clamps and clipped onto them.

Track-laying machine heading north from bridge three at Norton Bridge

Staffordshire Alliance manager, Matt Clark, said: “It’s great to see the track going in and the site really taking shape after all the hard work that has taken place.

“We’re making great progress at Norton Bridge and it’s satisfying to know our work, as part of Network Rail’s wider Railway Upgrade Plan, will deliver greater performance and reliability for passengers and the capability to run more train services.”

Around one million tonnes of earth excavated from a cutting up to 14m deep are being used to create embankments and bunds to protect wildlife throughout the site.

Rail flyover

The rail flyover, which will form the final stage of the programme at Norton Bridge, is set to be completed for Easter 2016 – but the NCT machine will return to the bridge in November and December for more track-laying work.

The construction of the grade-separated junction at the bridge will include six miles of new 100mph railway, 10 new bridge structures and one bridge enhancement, four river diversions, major environmental mitigation works, pipeline, road and footpath diversions and temporary haul roads.

Main works are expected to run to 2017, with key commissionings next year.

The work, being delivered by a pure Alliance of Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Network Rail and VolkerRail –started preparatory works in August 2013 ahead of Patrick McLoughlin’s green light in April 2014.

Wider Stafford Area Improvements Programme

The track-laying, which is part of a wider Stafford Area Improvements Programme package, follows the completion of the re-signalling of Stafford over the August bank holiday – phase 2 of the project.

During the major re-signalling commissioning work at the site, RTM spoke to Alliance operations manager, Ian Johnson, about the improvements package.

The work, which included 78 new signal heads, was, in effect, “turning the existing signalling system off and then switching the new one on and, predominantly, testing”.

Johnson also told RTM about some of the construction work being carried out, such as signal structures: “There are five gantry signals to go up, and four straight post signals that we have to do. That is all planned for the first two shifts of the weekend. Then, on the flip side of that, there are some critical recoveries.

“For instance, there are new signals up today that are directly behind existing signals. So there are some signals that we have to recover, but that is all programmed to be completed within the first 20 hours.”

The re-signalling also saw the installation of a new freight loop, the replacement of life expired signalling, telecoms and power supplies (with the signalling control transferred from the existing Stafford No4 and No5 signal boxes to Rugby), and the installation of bi-directional signalling for all platforms and an increase in the ‘slow’ line speeds from 75mph to 100mph.

The programme is being delivered in face of “unprecedented levels of passenger and freight growth on the rail network and on the West Coast Main Line to full capacity within the next five years”.

Once complete, it will separate high speed trains from slower local services and freight to reduce congestion, as well as facilitate the introduction of new timetables between 2015 and 2017.


Andrew Gwilt   02/10/2015 at 15:17

The Hitchin Flyover that was constructed eased the bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line but other junctions also needs improvements including Colton Junction where there could be a new flyover to be constructed over the North Pennine Lines that goes to Harrogate and Leeds as is due to be electrified from next year which a new flyover at Colton Junction would help ease congestion on both the ECML and North Pennine Lines South of York.

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