Network Rail has confirmed that major work to protect the line between Wolverhampton and Stafford from landslips is now complete.
The work has been part of a £5m investment by Network Rail and has seen thousands of tonnes of earth moved to make 1.3m of the railway south of Penkridge safe, which will bring more reliable and safer journeys for passengers.
The earthworks which have undergone improvements are on a branch of the West Coast mainline, which is a vital railway corridor for the country.
Huge expanses of sloping line-side have seen re-profiling with new stone to make it more stable and reducing the slopes gradients. The protection project saw a massive 11,000 tonnes of earth taken away with 19,000 tonnes of new stone put into place. The steep working location required specialist ‘spider’ excavators to enable the work to be completed.
Landslips can occur for many reasons, including animals burrowing underground, lengthened periods of wet weather and sometimes the specific geology of the location the railway is built upon.
Netting has been installed along 170m of slope between Wolverhampton and Stafford to help keep rabbits from burrowing and causing destabilisation to the embankments and cuttings.
The project has been undertaken during the daytime and has been organised effectively, creating no disruptions so passenger and freight services could continue to run as usual and also no noisy overnight work, which would affect local residents.
The essential improvement works began in November 2020, which means the huge earth moving project took just 11 months to complete.
Andrew Walker, project manager at Network Rail, said: “This major project will allow us to deliver more reliable journeys for millions of rail passengers and freight goods in future. Even though passengers won’t interact directly with the areas improved, it’s their journeys that feel the impact when movements underground pose a risk to the railway above.
“We want to make sure the railway network is in the best shape as winter approaches for the increasing number of passengers returning to rail travel following the pandemic.”
Lawrence Bowman, customer experience director for London Northwestern Railway, said: “Our services on the West Coast main line provide millions of passenger journeys every year and these important works will significantly reduce the likelihood of unnecessary delays.
“This project is another great example of the rail industry doing all we can to ensure smooth journeys for passengers as increasing numbers of people continue returning to the railway.”
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