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PERMANENT WAY & INFRASTRUCTURE


£81m reliability upgrade to WCML at Watford


Network Rail has chosen five long blockades rather than 54 weekend closures to improve the West Coast Main Line around Watford. Kate Ashley explains.


N


etwork Rail has announced improvements to the West Coast Main Line around


Watford to improve punctuality and reliability, including works not done under the 10-year, £9bn West Coast Route Modernisation.


The £81m scheme is to take place over five closures throughout 2014 to avoid closing the line completely over 54 weekends.


Work will include renewing three junctions around the station to improve the track layout and increase reliability, as well as renewal of nine miles of track, upgraded overhead line equipment, 12 miles of signalling renewed and an upgrade to the signalling power supply system.


Dyan Crowther, Network Rail route managing director, said: “This scheme represents significant investment in the southern end of the West Coast Main Line to improve punctuality and make the railway more reliable.


“This line has seen tremendous growth in traffic


and passengers over the last five years with the section at Watford being one of the most intensively used, high-speed sections of track in the UK. This work is absolutely essential to maintain the punctuality that passengers and our freight customers rightly expect.


“There is never a good time to carry out major work on such a busy route.


“However, after careful discussion with the train operators and industry partners, it became apparent that carrying out this vital investment over five longer closures between May 2014 and Easter 2015 when fewer people travel would, overall, cause less disruption.”


During the project, the signalling at Watford will be upgraded alongside new junctions and track to provide more flexibility for train services and better reliability.


Patrick Verwer, London Midland managing director, added: “We want our customers to have good journeys with minimum disruption.


“This is much needed investment and a series of closures is the quickest way of bringing the benefits of this major upgrade to our passengers. It gives certainty and allows us to plan good quality alternative travel arrangements.”


Chris Gibb, chief operating officer for Virgin Trains, said: “We shall ensure that all customers have a reliable way of travelling to and from London principally by being able to use other train operators’ services but in some cases by taking a replacement coach service for a short portion of the journey.


“We are starting a dialogue now with industry partners that puts the customer first, but at the same time allows Network Rail to carry out this essential work.”


Network Rail is also investigating the feasibility of increasing line speed of the fast lines through Watford to 125mph from the current 80mph.


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rail technology magazine Aug/Sep 13 | 61


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