The Easter weekend is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for work on the railway’s infrastructure. With commuters on holiday, Network Rail takes advantage of the quieter spell to close some lines and do essential work.
Things were a bit different this year. Most commuters haven’t travelled for the last three weeks, though trains have stayed running for essential workers. In addition, some infrastructures are off work, self-isolating to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Still, work had been planned well in advance and a large part of it went ahead anyway, mostly in warm sunshine. A brief round-up of the work follows.
Track was renewed through Linslade tunnel in Bedfordshire to improve reliability.
At Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, preparation work for East West Rail – which is re-establishing a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge – included the removal of sections of a flyover across the West Coast main line, which will be refurbished as part of the scheme.
Further north, in Greater Manchester, track renewals took place at Golborne near Warrington, work that involved clearing ballast from the sleepers and required a crane to controls operations.
In Lancashire, drainage of the West Coast main line between Preston and Lancaster has been a problem recently, so engineers were deployed to fix that and, at the same time, replace Euxton junction near Chorley.
Further north still, at Polmadie, near Glasgow Central, a tamper was deployed to raise the height of the track by packing more ballast under the sleepers, restoring the track geometry to improve ride quality.
Ballast was also the subject of work at Wolverhampton, where it was cleaned and replaced, once again to improve reliability and track performance.
Birmingham New Street station received a deep clean, particularly of all the floor matting at the station’s entrances – a job best carried out when passengers aren’t walking all over it!
Finally, at Pilning station near Bristol, preparation work was carried out ready for major track renewals as the points that enable trains to change lines between Pilning and the Severn Tunnel will soon be replaced.
All of this work was carried out while the teams of workers from Network Rail and its contractors stuck to Public Health England guidelines to give each other enough space. There were even stickers to remind everyone:
Network Rail’s managing director for its North West & Central region, Tim Shoveller, paid tribute to the men and women who carried out the works: “Our mission-critical frontline colleagues, including railway upgrade engineers, signallers, maintenance, control room and operations staff, are Britain’s hidden heroes, helping to keep Britain connected in this time of need. And I’m proud of them.”