Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris will today (December 9) officially open the new Werrington Tunnel which carries freight trains underneath the busy East Coast Main Line, and ensures that passenger services will no longer be disrupted by freight trains crossing the tracks.
The tunnel will bring significant improvements to passenger journeys on the East Coast Main Line as it passes through Peterborough.
By easing congestion on existing tracks, the project will unlock the potential to shave time off journeys, allow more passenger trains through, and will see improved reliability for journeys using the line daily.
This is another step in the £1.2bn East Coast Upgrade, which is planned to provide more seats and enable quicker journeys between London, the north of England and Scotland.
The engineering needed to install the tunnel saw a UK-first, as the 11,000-tonne curved concrete tunnel, 1,000 tonnes heavier than the Eiffel Tower, was slid into place under the existing railway in January this year.
The ‘curved box’ was built next to the East Coast Main Line in nine, interconnected sections. The structure is 155m long, 9.5m wide and 5.1m high, with 1m thick walls. In July, the new track installed inside the tunnel was connected to the existing lines. Work continued to install the signalling system which was commissioned over a single weekend in September. Vital testing of the new tunnel then took place to enable trains to start using the infrastructure.
Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail’s Eastern region, said: “From building the huge concrete tunnel onsite next to the East Coast Main Line, to pushing it into place in a UK first for engineering, to installing new track and signalling equipment to connect it to the existing lines – it’s been amazing to see the progress our teams have made on this ground-breaking project.
“Passengers travelling between London, Peterborough, the North of England and Scotland will benefit from faster, more reliable journeys as longer freight trains can now dive underneath the famous passenger route.
“I’m proud of our team’s brilliant response to the challenges of the Covid pandemic and how they reached major milestones on the project when it was at its peak. Using innovative methods, we’ve also been able to avoid major disruption for passengers, as services have continued running throughout the majority of the work. We want to thank passengers as well as people in the community for their continued patience.”