£250m WCML rail project gets underway

A project to deliver £250 million worth of upgrades on the West Coast main line has begun.

The Stafford Area Improvement Programme (SAIP) will involve the installation of new signalling equipment and the creation of a new freight loop around Stafford station.

Network Rail has established a new partnership with Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and VolkerRail – the first of its kind in the UK – to deliver the £250 million scheme.

The planned series of improvements on the West Coast Main Line, which include remodelling, resignalling and the construction a new flyover at Norton Bridge, will be carried out by what Network Rail is describing as a ‘pure construction alliance’ – a consortium model originating from Australia where all member organisations share the project’s benefits and risks.

Ian Jones, Network Rail programme manager and head of the Staffordshire Alliance, which is responsible for delivering the works, said: “The resignalling of Stafford is part of a wider package of investment in the West Coast main line between Stafford and Crewe which, when complete, will help to boost reliability and capacity and remove one of the last remaining bottlenecks on the route.

“Alongside linespeed improvements currently being delivered between Crewe and Stafford, these upgrades will mean a more reliable, faster and frequent service for the millions of passengers who travel on one of Europe’s busiest rail routes every month.”

The upgraded section of line will be controlled by Network Rail’s new control centre in Rugby and will see two more traditional signal boxes removed from the network.

Stafford Area Improvements Programme

  • Phase 1 – Linespeed improvements between Crewe and Norton Bridge, increasing the line speed on the ‘slow’ lines from 75mph to 100mph. Running from January 2013 to April 2014, these works include modifications to the overhead line equipment and installation of four new signals.
  • Phase 2 – Stafford resignalling. The installation of a new freight loop and the replacement of life expired signalling, telecoms and power supplies, with the signalling control transferred from the existing Stafford No4 and No5 signal boxes to Rugby, plus the installation of bi-directional signalling for platforms 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and an increase in the ‘slow’ line speeds (predominantly used by local passenger/freight services) from 75mph to 100mph between Great Bridgeford (near Norton Bridge) and Stafford. Running from spring 2014 to summer 2015.
  • Phase 3 – Proposed flyover at Norton Bridge. The proposed construction of a grade-separated junction, including six miles of new 100mph railway, 10 new bridge structures and two bridge enhancements, four river diversions, major environmental mitigation works, pipeline, road and footpath diversions and the construction of temporary haul roads. As an infrastructure project of national significance, the scheme is currently subject to a Development Consent Order, which provides the relevant powers and permissions to enable successful delivery of the programme. Upon the granting of the order, main works are scheduled to run from spring 2014 to 2017, with key commissionings in 2016.