Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris has today (9 December 2021) officially opened the brand-new Werrington Tunnel which carries freight trains underneath the busy East Coast Main Line (ECML) and ensures that passenger services will no longer be disrupted by freight trains crossing the tracks.
This country’s railways have long been home to marvels of engineering and the new Werrington Tunnel shows that we are continuing that proud tradition.
Our team's scope included the construction of a 160 metre curved jacked dive-under below the ECML, twin-bore tunnelling, culvert and river diversions, a new footbridge installation, existing bridge modifications, two kilometres of piling, track slewing, and various other associated works.
Construction of the dive-under portal involved the first curved jacked portal push in the UK with the precast concrete box forming the tunnel, weighing more than the Eiffel Tower, being slid into place under the existing railway in January this year. The ‘curved box’ was built next to the East Coast Main Line in nine, interconnected sections. The structure is 155 metres long, 9.5 metres wide and 5.1 metres high, with one metre thick walls.
We’re incredibly proud to have worked closely with Network Rail and our supply chain to deliver the UK’s first curved portal push on the East Coast Main Line upgrade at Werrington. The portal is a great example of the UK’s leading engineering and innovation expertise, harnessing these skills to enhance passengers’ experiences between London and the north of England.
The tunnel will bring significant improvements to passenger journeys on the East Coast Main Line as it passes through Peterborough, easing congestion on existing tracks and improving capacity and reliability for journeys using the line. This is another successful step in the £1.2 billion East Coast upgrade, which will provide more seats and enable quicker journeys between London, the north of England and Scotland.
Rob McIntosh, managing director for Network Rail’s Eastern region, said:
“From building the huge concrete tunnel onsite next to the East Coast Main Line, to pushing it into place in a UK first for engineering, to installing new track and signalling equipment to connect it to the existing lines – it’s been amazing to see the progress our teams have made on this ground-breaking project.
Passengers travelling between London, Peterborough, the north of England and Scotland will benefit from faster, more reliable journeys as longer freight trains can now dive underneath the famous passenger route.
I’m proud of our team’s brilliant response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they reached major milestones on the project when it was at its peak. Using innovative methods, we’ve also been able to avoid major disruption for passengers, as services have continued running throughout the majority of the work. We want to thank passengers as well as people in the community for their continued patience.”
Discover technical aspects of the project and hear from key members of the team.
Learn more from the Department for Transport's official press release: Werrington Tunnel opens unlocking faster journeys on the East Coast Main Line.