Stafford Area Improvement Programme

In a move unique to the UK rail sector, VolkerRail became part of the industry's first ‘pure construction alliance' to deliver the Stafford Area Improvement Programme, on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

With unprecedented levels of passenger and freight growth on the rail network and the WCML full to capacity within the next 10 years, the Staffordshire Area Improvements Programme seeked to remove a major bottleneck through the Stafford area.

The Staffordshire Alliance of VolkerRail, Atkins, Laing O'Rourke, and Network Rail are responsible for the successful delivery of the Stafford improvements, covering disciplines including trackworks, civils (structures, earthworks), signalling, telecommunications, highways alterations and pipeline diversions.

Project Breakdown

The programme was delivered through the following three key phases:

Phase 1 – Linespeed improvements between Crewe and Norton Bridge, increasing the line speed on the ‘slow’ lines from 75mph to 100mph. Completed in March 2014, these works included 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 all platforms 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 late 2015 (with an August 2015 commissioning), the majority of these works were delivered during weekends and midweek nights.

Phase 3 – Norton Bridge remodelling. The construction of a grade-separated junction (flyover) at Norton Bridge, including six miles of new 100mph railway, 11 new structures, four river diversions, major environmental mitigation works, pipeline, road and footpath diversions and the construction of temporary haul roads. The key commissioning of the flyover happened in March 2016 with the project being completed – including track upgrades on the main West Coast main line – later this year. As a project of national significance, the Norton Bridge project has been the subject of a Development Consent Order application which was approved by the Secretary of State for Transport following a consultation process dating back to 2010.

Since completion, the programme has facilitated the introduction of new timetables and has helped 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 and one extra freight train per hour (each direction) through Stafford.