£170m Investment In Rail Links

Network Rail has announced £170million of investment into the main train line linking Norwich and Ipswich to London.

The package of upgrades will start next year to providing a better, more reliable railway for passengers.

Work will included upgrades of the overhead lines, track and signalling, as well as one of Network Rail’s fleet of ‘high output’ machines will start working its way along the line from January to improve the reliability of the railway while also providing a smoother ride for passengers.

This work will be carried out on Saturdays and Sunday nights, and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays from mid-to-late evening onwards to avoid the peak periods when most commuters will be travelling.

The £42m high output machine scoops up the crushed rock, called ballast that the track sits on, before sieving out any small, broken pieces and replacing them with the same weight in fresh stone.

This provides a safe, well-drained bed for the track to sit on.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail route managing director, said: “This essential upgrade is the railway’s equivalent of resurfacing a busy road. Running a safe, reliable railway depends on the track being in good condition – not just the metal rails, but the foundations on which they sit too.

“We’re using one of the most modern pieces of kit on the railway, meaning the majority of our work can be done while trains are running on the adjacent track. As the name suggests, the ‘high output’ machine is also much, much quicker than using traditional methods. The railway in East Anglia is getting busier and passenger numbers are growing year on year. This work is part of a significant investment programme to bring the railway into the 21st century and deliver a better service to passengers.”

Jamie Burles, Managing Director, Abellio Greater Anglia said: “We will be working closely with Network Rail throughout the period of the High Output engineering programme. In scheduling the work overnight and at off-peak times to avoid the main periods of commuter travel, we will be doing everything possible to minimise alterations to the normal train service.

“The outcome of this programme and the other infrastructure investment that Network Rail is implementing next year will give us a better, more reliable railway. We also remain absolutely focused in our determination that the powerful case that is being made to Government, in partnership with our key stakeholders through the Great Eastern Rail Campaign, will deliver the significant and major upgrades for the East Anglia rail network that we all wish to see.”

Key projects on the Great Eastern Main Line in 2015 also include:

  • · Overhead line upgrade: Engineers continue to upgrade 60-year-old equipment to improve reliability along the Great Eastern Main Line. In 2015, work in the Chelmsford area will be completed.
  • · Witham: Network Rail is installing new track and points at Witham. Points allow trains to move from one part of the track to another
  • · Colchester: Engineers are returning to Colchester to complete the second part this project. NetworkRail is remodelling the track and installing new sets of points, to deliver a more reliable railway to passengers
  • · Crossrail: Work continues to transform travel for commuters and longer-distance passengers between London, Essex and beyond. The additional passenger capacity and renewed stations will mean major, long-term improvements. Brand new trains will replace the existing trains used on stopping services from Shenfield to London from 2017.

Work on these key projects will take place during eight weekends between the beginning of February and the end of March in addition to Easter and May bank holidays. In 2015, there are currently no plans for any major disruptive engineering work on the Great Eastern Main Line between May and the end of the year, which would require a bus replacement service during weekends on both Saturday and Sunday.

The high output ballast cleaner is planned to work as follows:

  • · January to April: from Norwich to Haughley
  • · April to May: from Ipswich to Stowmarket
  • · May to October: from Colchester to Shenfield
  • · November to December: from Norwich to Stowmarket

Where the work takes place from mid-to-late evenings on certain weeknights and very early mornings, there will be some extended journey times and the timetable will also be supplemented with some additional bus services. Extra staff will be on duty during these periods to assist customers with information provision and when transferring to and from bus replacement services.

Full information of revisions and alterations to train times, and advise on alternative travel arrangements will be available at stations and published on the Abellio Greater Anglia and National Rail website in advance of each stage of the High Output work.

The High Output work continues on the Great Eastern Main Line in 2016, but is also planned to work on Saturday nights on the Ely to Peterborough line through the spring and summer. In late 2016 and into 2017, Network Rail will start installing new track on the Great Eastern Main Line as it continues to upgrade the railway.

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