A new railway tunnel in Peterborough has opened today (December 9), reducing congestion on the East Coast Main Line by carrying freight trains underneath the line.
The latest step in the £1.2 billion project to upgrade the line, the Werrington Tunnel will allow slower-moving freight trains to drive underneath the passenger route and use an adjacent line northwards.
The tunnel creates the possibility for journey times on the line to be decreased and more passenger trains to pass through.
READ MORE: Latest from PeterboroughLive
The East Coast Upgrade aims to provide more seats and enable quicker journeys between London, the North of England and Scotland.
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The project’s conclusion is said to help pave the way for a roll out of rail infrastructure across the North and Midlands recently announced in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP).
The IRP sets out £96 billion worth of investment into the railways that will aim to bring improvements to communities and support economic growth by improving both East–West and North–South links.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who opened the tunnel, said: “This country’s railways have long been home to marvels of engineering and the new Werrington Tunnel shows that we are continuing that proud tradition.
“Opening this new section of railway marks the end of a project which saw Network Rail engineers deliver an incredible feat installing an 11,000-tonne concrete tunnel, freeing up tracks and unlocking new opportunities for rail freight.
“Our investment in the railways, including the unprecedented £96bn we are spending through the Integrated Rail Plan, means there are even more opportunities to move goods by rails, taking HGVs off the road.”
The installation of the tunnel saw a curved concrete box weighing 11,000 tonnes (1,000 tonnes heavier than the Eiffel Tower) pushed under the main line in January – a first for UK engineering.
(Image: Network Rail)
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 in September before 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, added: “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.”
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