Werrington Tunnel, an underground freight tunnel running beneath the East Coast Main Line near Peterborough, has been formally opened by Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris.
A key step in the £1.2bn East Coast upgrade, the opening of the tunnel allows for freight services to be ran underneath the main rail artery, significantly improving passenger service reliability on the East Coast Main Line.
Easing congestion on the route will also allow the operation of more passenger trains, providing more seats between London and the North of England and Scotland.
The installation of the tunnel saw a UK engineering first, as the 11,000-tonne curved concrete tunnel was constructed alongside the East Coast Main Line in nine interconnected sections and then slid into place under the existing railway earlier this year.
At 155 metres long, 9.5 metres high and 5.1 metres high, with 1 metre thick walls, the Werrington Tunnel’s ‘concrete box’ weighs 1,000 tonnes more than the Eiffel Tower.
It was slid into place in January 2021, with the new track then installed in the tunnel in July. Work then continued to install the signalling system before vital testing of the new tunnel took place to enable trains to start using the infrastructure.
Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail’s Eastern region, said: “From building the huge concrete tunnel onsite next to the East Coast Main Line, to pushing it into place in a UK first for engineering, to installing new track and signalling equipment to connect it to the existing lines – it’s been amazing to see the progress our teams have made on this ground-breaking project.
“Passengers travelling between London, Peterborough, the north of England and Scotland will benefit from faster, more reliable journeys as longer freight trains can now dive underneath the famous passenger route.
“I’m proud of our team’s brilliant response to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and how they reached major milestones on the project when it was at its peak. Using innovative methods, we’ve also been able to avoid major disruption for passengers, as services have continued running throughout the majority of the work. We want to thank passengers as well as people in the community for their continued patience.”
The ongoing work at Werrington Tunnel has also been a common feature this year in our RTM digital magazine edition. Read more below:
- Werrington – A UK engineering first: Paul Rutter, Route Director (East Coast Route), Network Rail
- Final stages at Werrington: Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor (East Coast Upgrade), Network Rail
The completion of the Werrington Tunnel project will also help pave the way for the major infrastructure rollout planned across the North of England and Midlands, as announced in the recently released Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).
This includes £96bn worth of investment into the railways to help deliver real and meaningful improvements to communities, supporting economic growth by transforming both east-west and north-south links.
Speaking as he officially opened the tunnel, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This country’s railways have long been home to marvels of engineering and the new Werrington Tunnel shows that we are continuing that proud tradition.
“Opening this new section of railway marks the end of a project which saw Network Rail engineers deliver an incredible feat installing an 11,000-tonne concrete tunnel, freeing up tracks and unlocking new opportunities for rail freight.
“Our investment in the railways, including the unprecedented £96 billion we are spending through the integrated rail plan, means there are even more opportunities to move goods by rails, taking HGVs off the road.”