Network Rail completes ‘super-fast’ Northampton railway upgrades

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Network Rail has completed a year’s worth of work to upgrade the railway in Northampton in five days, this included renewing track, removing scrap rail and upgrading drainage

The upgrades included improving drainage in the Victorian-built Crick tunnel on the Northampton loop.

Problem flooding inside the 140-year-old tunnel caused passengers and freight travelling between London Euston and the Midlands to be delayed for a total of 15,000 minutes (10 days) between 2012 and 2020.

The full line closure on this part of the railway is very rare as it’s a key spur of the West Coast mainline, one of Europe’s busiest mixed-use lines for passengers and freight.

Network Rail and train operators agreed to close the railway and fix the problem once and for all while passenger numbers are low during the coronavirus lockdown.

It’s estimated that doing the work in this way has saved the taxpayer £7.5m.

Because no trains at all were running – a 13 mile stretch of the 25,000-volt electric power lines could be turned off between Northampton and Rugby to allow for other essential repairs to be made.

Now the work which can only occur during a full railway closure is complete, engineers with finish off any remaining work during night shifts over the next month, but this will not be disruptive for passengers or freight.

Months of careful planning

James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast Mainline South route director, said: “I’d like to thank passengers making essential journeys for their patience while we carried out this accelerated upgrade work on the vital route between London Euston and the Midlands.

“This speedy upgrade of Crick tunnel shows how the rail industry is coming together to get the railway in the best possible shape for passengers when they can return once coronavirus travel restrictions are eased.

“This is all part of our commitment to build back better as the country emerges from the pandemic.”

Gus Dunster, executive director of operations and safety at Avanti West Coast, said: “We are proud to have played our part to facilitate this unique opportunity for Network Rail to access and upgrade Crick Tunnel, while protecting vital services for key workers and those making essential journeys.

“This scale of work would usually take months of careful planning and take a year to complete but as a result of collaborating successfully with industry colleagues, we were able to do this in a matter of days.

“It’s a great achievement and we would like to thank all of those involved for making this happen, and for the patience of everyone who travelled with us over the five days as the work was completed.

“The work will help to make journeys more reliable for our customers when we look forward to welcoming them back in the near future.”

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