A TUNNEL which will take a railway under the East Coast Main Line near Peterborough will be ‘pushed into place’ at the rate of 1.5 metres an hour, said Network Rail.
The engineering feat will be a first in the UK, and involves pushing an 11,000 tonne curved concrete box under the East Coast line at Werrington Junction, where trains travelling from the Peterborough direction towards Spalding and beyond must presently cross the up main lines, reducing capacity.
The new tunnel will allow down trains, which include a busy flow of freight traffic, to dive under the up main line instead.
Engineers have spent the last nine months building the new tunnel by the side of the main line, and it is now ready to be pushed into position over nine days between 16 and 24 January. Three of the lines above must be temporarily removed, and so only a reduced service will be possible south of Grantham. If the tunnel had been built by conventional methods, the restrictions would have lasted for a month.
The work is one of a number of possessions connected with the £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main line which have been scheduled until June, mostly at weekends. However, services at London King’s Cross will be reduced between 26 April and 3 June, so that a redesigned track layout can be laid.
East Coast route director Paul Rutter said that the Werrington project is a ‘massive engineering challenge’, but that it will ‘avoid hundreds of hours of closure on one of the most important lines in the country’.
He continued: ‘This is industry leading work that really puts the needs of passengers first. In the past, Network Rail might have approached this problem by thinking about the easiest way to do the engineering. Instead, I’m proud to say we have come up with a creative and innovative solution that will deliver massive benefits while keeping disruption to a minimum.’