Werrington tunnel

Network Rail installs UK-first 11,000 tonne railway tunnel

In a first for UK engineering, an 11,000 tonne curved concrete box has been successfully pushed under the East Coast Main Line near Peterborough.

Part of the project to build a new tunnel at Werrington, north of Peterborough, the works would enable slower moving freight trains to dive underneath the famous passenger route and use an adjacent line northward.

This is the first time that a curved concrete box has been installed using this industry-leading engineering technique in the UK.

It took nine days to carry out the works, with newly-released timelapse footage from Network Rail showing the 155-metre curved concrete box tunnel, which is heavier than the Eiffel Tower, being pushed into place at just 150cm per hour, using four hydraulic jacks.

Despite the lengthy processes, using this cutting-edge technique still helped the team avoid hundreds of hours of passenger delays on this vital part of the East Coast Main Line and meant services could continue running largely uninterrupted throughout.

Teams removed three of the tracks, lifted the overhead wires and dug out spoil from the site.

Once the tunnel was eventually underneath, they then put everything back in place ready for regular services to resume. The work was carried out safely, in line with Government Covid-19 guidance.

Paul Rutter, Route Director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said: “Our teams have completed this challenging piece of engineering in a creative way, which also allowed a reduced train service to continue for those who still had to travel.

“Over the nine days, we’ve made major progress on this vital project which will bring faster, more reliable journeys for passengers on the East Coast Main Line.

“I’m so proud that this project has shown itself to be one which is industry leading and that our teams have had the opportunity to use this new technique for the first time in the UK on one of the country’s most famous railway lines.”

David Horne, LNER Managing Director, added: “This essential part of the East Coast Upgrade will allow faster, more frequent LNER servicesbetween London, the North of England and Scotland by creating a new and improved route for slower trains to cross the main line.

“We look forward to working with Network Rail on the remaining East Coast Upgrade engineering works in the first half of this year, so that we can deliver the benefits for our customers and communities of this significant investment.”

The next stage of the project at Werrington involves work to install two new tracks inside the new tunnel and the associated signalling system, ready for it to come into use at the end of 2021.

The project is part of the £1.2bn East Coast Upgrade. Once complete, it will bring a more reliable railway with more choice for passengers, as well as faster journeys between London, the North of England and Scotland.

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