Wigan Springs Branch Depot

We have adapted the existing freight yard in Ashton-in-Makerfield, creating a new facility for Northern to stable and service 32 electric and eight diesel trains.

Network Rail has invested £46 million into the project at Springs Branch (next to the West Coast main line) as part of the Great North Rail Project – a vast programme of improvements to transform train travel for customers in the North. 

The new facility provides more flexibility for Northern to move their trains around the network overnight in preparation for services the next day. It also makes room for more trains that will meet the growth in passenger numbers, set to double over the next 25 years. 

Working within a live operational environment presented numerous challenges such as tight time constraints. The depot users were actively engaged, giving transparency and ensured the safety of all. This approach fostered a collaborative environment where difficult decisions could be agreed quickly without the need for escalation. 

We were appointed as principal contractor for this project in February 2018 and spent 20 months upgrading the sidings, including: 

  • Infrastructure works to house additional vehicles for TOC 
  • Track reconstruction and installation, including S&C work 
  • Overhead line electrification works to parts of the sidings 
  • Removal of redundant sidings 
  • Renewal of the entry and exit to the depot 
  • Signalling works, including constructing a new signal box and a TRUST terminal connection. 


A key element to the project was ensuring the depot was accessible to both diesel and electric trains. With a fully electrified depot, Northern are able to move their trains across the north, overnight in preparation for services the next day. 


The team has recovered six signals, installed seven new signals and six new powered point machines. Installation of AWS’s for three signals and installed new train describer. Major works to increase the capacity of the existing Westpac system was also undertaken.   


The team has constructed a five-apron depot complete with 500m of concrete slab track and all on the existing sidings footprint. As part of the project the team renewed 18 point ends including a scissors crossover. 

Key facts: 

  • 3,400m of new track 
  • 2,600m of overhead line equipment 
  • 1,750m of walkways 
  • 1,500m of fencing 
  • 1,200m of track drainage 
  • New independent power supply 
  • New access road 
  • New mains water supply 

Community engagement and environment

Japanese Knotweed was identified throughout the depot, which required considerable on-site management and eradication, with liaison between the environmental and construction teams.

Four groups of engineering students from Wigan and Leigh College took their first steps on a live rail site, when visiting the depot as part of Open Doors.  

Students were given full PPE before being taken out onto site, learning about the work required to build a depot, environmental aspects and costing. After the site tour, the students learnt about the different types of apprenticeships available

"The rail industry has come together to build this £46m new train depot at Springs Branch, and we’re really happy to have created 18 jobs. This much-needed infrastructure will really benefit passengers, as it not only helps keep trains clean and tidy, it also creates more operational space for Northern to move units more reliably and punctually across the north west."

Lauren Rodgers Project manager at Network Rail