Aerial view of Carstairs, via Network Rail

Carstairs Junction upgrades to come as part of a £164m improvement package

This March will see the forced closure of the West Coast Main Line for a 16-day span whilst specialist Network Rail engineers conduct essential works for an upgrade programme to Carstairs Junction.

This period of line closure is scheduled between March 4 and March 19, marking the inaugural phase of a wider three month package of works, which will trains diverted and extended journey-times between March and June. These disruptions will affect all services between Glasgow/Edinburgh and Carlisle.

These works come as a part of a £164m Scottish Government investment with ambitions to modernise the key junction for both passenger and rail freight services. The project will culminate with the creation of Scotland’s largest freight loop, with capabilities to accommodate 775m-long freight trains, thus aiding in the continuous modal shift for businesses to swap out road travel for rail.

Engineering teams will be working to both simplify and upgrade the track-layout, resulting in the clearance of an existing bottleneck within the network, improving reliability and ensuring the ability to better cope with passenger and freight demands.

Due to the sheer size and scale of the works, it has been scheduled to be conducted over the course of three separate phases, thus allowing more effective management of services throughout the route, reducing disruptions where possible.

  • Throughout the first phase, this coming March, direct services to Glasgow Central and Edinburgh on the West Coast Main Line will be halted.
  • Phase two of the project is currently scheduled between Monday 20th March and Friday 21st April, seeing part of the junction re-opening and allowing some direct services to Edinburgh and via diversion routes to Glasgow, on weekdays.
  • The final phase, taking place between Saturday 22nd April and Sunday 4th June, will finally see the return of most regular services to normal throughout the weekdays, with the junction fully closed each weekend.

The closure of the junction will affect cross-border operators including, Avanti West Coast, Caledonian Sleeper, CrossCountry Trains, London North Eastern Railway and TransPennine Express, who will be operating via diversionary routes or offering alternative journey options during this time.

Liam Sumpter, Route Director, Network Rail Scotland, said:

“Carstairs Junction is coming to the end of its life cycle and with the volume of freight and passenger trains passing through each week it’s important that we modernise this part of the network.

“By completing this crucial upgrade work we will improve the capabilities and reliability of this strategically important junction, providing better future journeys for passengers and more capacity for freight.

“There’s never a good time to close such an important line but this is a huge and extremely complex piece of work that will safeguard the future of the route for years to come.

“We appreciate that this will cause some inconvenience and would like to thank customers for their patience during this time.”

The Carstairs junction currently requires regular maintenance works due to the current structure reaching the end of its lifespan, often seeing speed restrictions imposed which can drastically affect performance. The current junction layout is not fit to cope with today’s pattern and volumes of service, often seeing 200+ services passing through the junction on an average midweek day.

Installation of the new power supply will afford engineers with the ability to switch off the overhead lines remotely to carry out maintenance, reducing the amount of time the railway is closed in future. The improvements will also bring a major reduction to overall journey times via the removal of a 50mp speed restriction.

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