The completion of major signalling work near Peterborough means freight trains are ready to start using the East Coast Main Line this winter.
Undertaken by Network Rail, the developments were done on a new section of the track and are set to cut congestion and increase overall capacity.
Engineers commissioned the signalling system, a critical breakthrough in the final stage of the project, which makes up part of the £1.2b East Coast Upgrade.
The billion-pound investment will let an additional two long-distance services an hour into and out of London.
The new line is set to eliminate constraints to the timetable, typically caused by slower freight trains on the Great North Great Eastern (GNGE) route having to cross over the high-speed East Coast Main Line.
Work began at Werrington in Summer 2018 and pioneering construction techniques pressed the ground-breaking 11,000-tonne tunnel into place in January 2021.
The new dive under offers a different route by enabling the new two track railway to run beneath the East Coast Main Line instead, separating it from any high-speed passenger traffic.
Around 8km of track was also installed, running through the tunnel, whilst work to connect the new track to the existing Stamford lines - on top of the installation of signalling equipment - was completed over the summer.
Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail’s East Coast Upgrade, said “we’ve completed vital signalling work over the weekend which will allow freight trains to begin using the new tunnel and divert underneath the East Coast Main Line, rather than crossing it, from later this year.”
Carrying more than 20m passengers a year, the East Coast Main Line is a vital rail route, connecting London and Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.
He added, “our teams have completed the vast majority of this project, without impacting on train services. It’ll bring faster, more frequent and more reliable services for passengers travelling between London, Peterborough, the North of England and Scotland.”
Key work to test the new tunnel will occur within the next few weeks, and trains should expect to use it by the end of this year.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton Harris, said “this is another step towards completing the astounding engineering project being undertaken at Werrington.”
He added, “this scheme, part of our £1.2bn investment into the East Coast upgrade, will unlock the potential of our railways, freeing up tracks so that passengers and freight can have faster, more reliable journeys.”