The Development of the West Coast Main Line

What's costing 350 million, stretches for 15 miles and should be finished by the end of 2008? - the West Coast Main Line Upgrade.

Most members will already be aware of the major works taking place on the railway line between Tamworth, Lichfield and Armitage; the aim being to tackle the two track bottleneck on this section of the line by adding two more tracks. On 19th October, Keith Riley, a Senior Project Manager with Network Rail brought members up to date with progress on that scheme.

Why is the scheme needed? Keith explained that four tracks stretched most of the way from Euston to Crewe but the section through Lichfield and Tamworth was only two tracks. This resulted in a bottleneck, especially now that the new Pendolino trains can run at 125 mph - whilst most other trains are slower. The widening task was not easy, especially around Tamworth where housing has crowded in on both sides of the line. Ingenious techniques had to be adopted to ensure that the line could be widened with minimum disturbance. Soil nailing ensured that new, steeper, cutting sides would not slip. New over-bridges had to be rolled into place with minimum disruption to both road and rail transport. A major new bridge was being constructed over the River Tame near Hopwas. Hademore crossing at Whittington was to close and be replaced by a new road bridge by the end of the year. The platforms at Lichfield Trent Valley station were to be lengthened.

The logistical exercise is awesome. One million cubic metres of materials have already been moved; miles of temporary haul roads parallel to the line have been built; footpaths diverted; ecological surveys undertaken; wildlife like Badgers and Greater Crested Newts relocated and a community forum set up to keep residents informed and offer an opportunity for comment. In all thirty five separate contracts have been let.

Keith, as an employee of Network Rail explained that once the railway had been upgraded all the indications were that the train operators would provide more trains for Lichfield Trent Valley station. Perhaps the station would benefit from a long overdue improvement as well!

Roger Hockney
October 2006