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First commissioning work begins on Network Rail’s Panel Framework

Work has begun on the Bolton to Blackburn capacity enhancement project, marking the start of the first project to progress into the construction and commissioning phase on Network Rail’s London North Western (LNW) Panel Framework.

The framework forms part of Network Rail's extensive programme to enhance and renew the LNW routes, over the next five years.

Preparatory works were completed in the lead up to the eight stage, five week blockade, which began on the 18 July. To increase capacity and performance, VolkerRail will complete track renewals and signalling installation, testing, and commissioning works along the 4,000m up and down Darwen mainline, along with stabilisation works on a 91m retaining wall between the over bridge at junction 40 and 41.

In order to deliver the entirety of the design and construction requirements, VolkerRail is working collaboratively with Buckingham Group Contracting Limited and Babcock International, who are delivering the civil engineering and rail systems works.

The Bolton to Blackburn capacity enhancement project is the first of many contracts to commence under the framework, and focuses on increasing capacity and train service performance at Darwen.

Stuart Birch, director of major projects at VolkerRail, said: “This framework represents a significant milestone for VolkerRail and allows us to demonstrate how we have become a market leader in performing collaboratively with Network Rail."

Terry Strickland, Network Rail’s area director, said: “This essential upgrade will provide a better, more reliable railway for passengers travelling between Manchester and Clitheroe for many decades to come. We have worked closely with Northern Rail so passengers are still able to get to their destinations during this essential work which can only be done when trains are not running.”

The CP5 framework is part of a wider £38bn programme by Network Rail to improve Britain’s railways over the next five years, which currently sees four million passenger journeys and thousands of tonnes of freight transported every single day.