First stage of £250 million Stafford rail improvements begin

Work has started on the first phase of a £250m programme to improve performance and capacity on the Stafford section of the West Coast Main Line.

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Leading the works is the Staffordshire Alliance - a partnership of Atkins, Laing O'Rourke, Network Rail and VolkerRail, working as part of a new collaborative contract that will help to transform the delivery of rail infrastructure projects in the UK.

With unprecedented levels of passenger and freight growth on the rail network and the West Coast Main Line full to capacity within less than 10 years, the Staffordshire Area Improvements Programme seeks to remove a major bottleneck through the Stafford area.

Once complete, the programme will facilitate the introduction of new timetables between 2015 and 2017 and help to create the capacity to run:

  • Two extra trains per hour (each direction) between London and the north west of England
  • One extra fast train per hour (each direction) between Manchester and Birmingham
  • One extra freight train per hour (each direction) through Stafford

The programme will deliver this through the following three key projects:

  • 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 and will be delivered during weekends and midweek nights, significantly reducing the impact to passengers and lineside residents.
  • 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 4, 5 and 6 and an increase in the ‘slow' line speeds (predominantly used by local/freight services) from 75mph to 100mph between Great Bridgeford (near Norton Bridge) and Stafford. Running from spring 2014 to summer 2015, the majority of these works will also be delivered during weekends and midweek nights.
  • Phase 3 - Proposed flyover at Norton Bridge. The proposed construction of a grade-separated junction, including 10km of new 100mph railway, 12 new bridge structures, 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.

With the linespeed improvement works up and running and preparatory works in support of the other projects taking place, the Staffordshire Alliance is already rising to the multidisciplinary challenge.

Commented Dominic Baldwin, Alliance Manager: "Whilst alliancing itself is not new to the rail sector, truly collaborative working has often proved difficult due to a wide range of factors. The Staffordshire Alliance directly addresses this through a new form of contract and a new approach, built upon common principles, shared values and behaviours, which will help us to deliver this programme efficiently and effectively, whilst leaving a positive lasting legacy for Staffordshire."