Improving the Stafford Area
An enhanced railway through the Stafford area has been integrated, meaning that passengers can enjoy improved services following a new section of track and a key flyover which opened to trains at Norton Bridge.
The new railway removes one of the last major bottlenecks on the West Coast main line by allowing trains travelling to Manchester from the south and West Midlands to travel over – rather than across – the existing tracks.
As well as speeding up journeys and improving reliability on the West Coast main line (one of the busiest rail routes in Europe), this will also help to create the capacity for more frequent services through the Stafford area.
The £250m investment scheme, which is part of Network Rail’s £40bn Railway Upgrade Plan, has also seen new modern, more reliable signalling installed and improvements between Stafford and Crewe made to allow trains to travel at faster speeds.
Developments have taken place over the last four years and have been delivered on budget and admirably, 18 months early.
An essential part of the upgrade is the new rail-over-rail flyover which means trains to Manchester, via Stoke-on-Trent, will now travel over the existing lines rather than having to slow down and criss-cross the tracks.
The 5:11am CrossCountry service from Manchester to Bournemouth was the first train over the new flyover at Norton Bridge.
Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, said:
“We are investing over £40billion in our railways in this parliament, which is the biggest upgrade since Victorian times. Not only is this project in Norton Bridge a major engineering achievement, it will also allow trains to travel faster through this area and bring more reliable services to one of the busiest rail routes in Europe, creating better journeys for those travelling across the Stafford region.”
The Chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, said:
“The opening of the new flyover and railway in the Norton Bridge area marks the culmination of four years’ work which will help provide passengers with a more reliable and better performing railway through the Stafford area on the West Coast main line, one of the busiest rail routes in Europe.
“We have removed one of the last major bottlenecks on the route which will improve the reliability of the railway and speed of the trains through the area. It will also help run more freight and passenger services through the area and on the entire West Coast main line in future.
“Building this new railway to help provide improved services for passengers is part of our wider £40bn Railway Upgrade Plan, funded by the government, which will help meet the demands of an increasing number of passengers for many years to come. Our investment also helps the railway support economic growth, job creation and house building around Britain.”
Patrick Verwer, Managing Director at London Midland, commented:
“The new track layout at Norton Bridge is a major game changer of trains serving or travelling through Staffordshire. It will allow local and long distance services to pass through the county more easily making better journeys for everyone.”
Phil Bearpark, Executive Director of Operations and Projects at Virgin Trains, commented:
“We’re delighted at the opening of the new section of track on the West Coast Mainline. This is a significant piece of enhancement work that will benefit customers with increased reliability and lead to an improved rail network in the future.”
Andy Cooper, Managing Director of CrossCountry, said:
“By delivering this investment in increased capacity on the busy West Coast main line, Network Rail has improved the journeys of our customers by allowing us to provide more reliable services now and the prospect of faster journeys between Manchester and Birmingham in the near future.”
With more than 200 engineering trains utilised to deliver materials to site, the scale of the project is massive. Four rivers have been diverted, 11 new structures built and over 4,000 men and women were involved in the upgrade.