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Video: Plans for £170m investment to make East Anglia rail line safer and more reliable set out - but brace yourself for disruption

08:24 30 October 2014

A Network Rail engineer at work Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

A Network Rail engineer at work Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Rail users are set to face major disruption next year as part of a £170m raft of works to make the East Anglian rail link between Norwich and London safer and more reliable.

Ballast cleaning

This work will be carried out on Saturdays and Sunday nights, and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays from mid-to-late evening onwards to avoid the peak periods when most commuters will be travelling,

Where the work takes place from mid-to-late evenings on certain weeknights and very early mornings, there will be some extended journey times, and there will also be replacement bus services.

Work will take place in the following places:

January to April: Norwich to Haughley

April to May: Ipswich to Stowmarket

May to October: Colchester to Shenfield

November to December: Norwich to Stowmarket

Network Rail has set out its plans for work over the coming year - including a project to scoop rocks out of the track with a hi-tech machine - which will mean some trains will be replaced by buses or slowed down as they pass engineers.

Network Rail said the work, known as ballast cleaning, would provide a safe, well-drained bed for the track to sit on, and was absolutely vital to improving performance on the busy line.

The £42m machine scoops up the crushed rock, called ballast, before sieving out any small, broken pieces and replacing them with the same weight in fresh stone.

Network Rail said the machine could cover double the distance every night compared to conventional methods, and without it, the work would take 12 years instead of around two years, and would be much more disruptive.

Other rail work

Work on other projects will take place during eight weekends between the beginning of February and the end of March in addition to Easter and May bank holidays.

Key projects on the Great Eastern Main Line in 2015 also include:

Overhead line upgrade: Engineers continue to upgrade 60-year-old equipment to improve reliability along the Great Eastern Main Line. In 2015, work in the Chelmsford area will be completed.

Witham: Network Rail is installing new track and points at Witham. Points allow trains to move from one part of the track to another

Colchester: Engineers are returning to Colchester to complete the second part this project. NetworkRail is remodelling the track and installing new sets of points, to deliver a more reliable railway to passengers

Crossrail: Work continues to transform travel for commuters and longer-distance passengers between London, Essex and beyond. The additional passenger capacity and renewed stations will mean major, long-term improvements. Brand new trains will replace the existing trains used on stopping services from Shenfield to London from 2017.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail route managing director, said: “This essential upgrade is the railway’s equivalent of resurfacing a busy road. Running a safe, reliable railway depends on the track being in good condition – not just the metal rails, but the foundations on which they sit too.

“We’re using one of the most modern pieces of kit on the railway, meaning the majority of our work can be done while trains are running on the adjacent track. As the name suggests, the ‘high output’ machine is also much, much quicker than using traditional methods.”

Jamie Burles, Managing Director, Abellio Greater Anglia said: “We will be working closely with Network Rail throughout the period of the high output engineering programme. In scheduling the work overnight and at off-peak times to avoid the main periods of commuter travel, we will be doing everything possible to minimise alterations to the normal train service.

“The outcome of this programme and the other infrastructure investment that Network Rail is implementing next year will give us a better, more reliable railway.”

Upgrades of overhead lines, track and signalling are also planned as part of the £170m package of upgrades next year.

But Network Rail said there were currently no plans for any major disruptive engineering work on the Great Eastern Main Line between May and the end of the year, which would require a bus replacement service during weekends on both Saturday and Sunday.

The ballast cleaning will continue on the Great Eastern Main Line in 2016, but is also planned to work on Saturday nights on the Ely to Peterborough line through the spring and summer. In late 2016 and into 2017, Network Rail will start installing new track on the Great Eastern Main Line as it continues to upgrade the railway.

MP Chloe Smith said: “One of the things that plagues passengers the most on our line is the lack of reliability. Ways of improving reliability are welcome, but in doing so, Network Rail must make sure they are delivering the highest standards so passengers are not put out while the works are done.”

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP and co-chair of the Great Eastern Main Line Taskforce said: “We welcome these improvements to the safety, reliability and resilience of the rail line. But keeping passengers moving and free from as much disruption and inconvenience as possible is equally important. That’s the big challenge for Network Rail and Abellio Greater Anglia. Meanwhile, our main focus is on the transformation of the Great Eastern Main Line with an injection of much needed investment for improved infrastructure and new rolling stock, the case for which we will be making to Government in the coming days.”

• Full information of revisions and alterations to train times, and advise on alternative travel arrangements will be available at stations and published on the Abellio Greater Anglia and National Rail website in advance of each stage of the work.

30 comments

  • - Peter Watson, wasn't BR running a 90 m in service using steam locos (e.g. The Broadsman) in the 50's 60's?

    Report this comment

    Rob44

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

  • So £XX Millions of taxpayers money gets put into Anglia Rail so a Dutch National Rail Company can export more money? Wakey Wakey

    Report this comment

    Rob44

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014

  • @Baptist Trainfan is right to point out that this "project to scoop rocks out of the track with a hi-tech machine" is not some fantastic innovation, or something that will offer a step-change in reliability and performance on the line. It is a routine maintenance procedure applied universally across all Britain's main lines at intervals. It should not be spoken of as something out of the ordinary that makes extra service disruption somehow more excusable ...

    Report this comment

    Trevor Ashwin

    Friday, October 31, 2014

  • What is HS23?

    Report this comment

    Whiley Boy

    Friday, October 31, 2014

  • If they know there is going to be disruption why not offer lower price tickets for the train journeys in question? A sub standard service should mean a lower fare. Yesterday I travelled from Norwich to London on the railway. People had to stand from Ipswich onwards and the return journey was delayed and there were no food and drink facilities on board. Add to that a 30 minute wait for a taxi when I got back to Norwich! Never mind "Norwich in 90", how about "Norwich on time" for a start?! This railway service is hopeless.

    Report this comment

    Lord 'Elp-Us

    Friday, October 31, 2014

  • "Brace yourself for disruption" - you'll find people who attempt to use Abysmallio "Greater" Anglia do that every day, regardless of whether there's engineering work or not Weren't the years of weekend closures for engineering work, with bus replacement services, also meant to improve reliability & performance ? That seems to have gone well. When there's a bus replacement service, should you not actually be charged for using a coach service i.e. equivalent to National Express or MegaBus, which tend to be much cheaper than the extortionate train fares ?

    Report this comment

    DocScott

    Friday, October 31, 2014

  • What annoys me a bit is the sound of trumpets which is being to announce what is basically routine maintenance work rather than a major upgrade. And the High Output Ballast Train is hardly new: Network Rail bought it in 2008 and it has ben used on other lines.

    Report this comment

    Baptist Trainfan

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

  • Yes, they do have bus replacements in Europe. For instance: "Travellers using Paris Charles de Gaulle airport have been warned to allow extra time for their journey because of engineering work on the RER rail lines for the next six weekends. No RER B trains are running to France's busiest airport on Saturdays or Sundays from this weekend until November 7 because of station renovation work. Passengers requiring the airport will have to take the other branch of RER B to Mitry-Claye and board a free shuttle bus".

    Report this comment

    Baptist Trainfan

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

  • Norwich in 90 must be the worst planned transport scheme since the Sheffield tram fiasco of the '90s.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

  • Travellers will face major disruption? Oh purlease don't make me laugh. When have travellers not faced major disruption on this disgrace of a line? And I see Chloe Smith who regards herself as the saviour of the link between Norwich and London is trying to take credit while sliding around the increased disruption this is going to cause. Wont work lady. I never ever go up to London to keep an appointment the same day. Always book into a hotel the previous night because every time I've tried to travel and keep an appointment the same day it hasn't worked. May I have a refund?

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

  • 'A fine City' the work at elvedon is nearly done I think!!!!! But they are just teasing us with some cones at the moment. The bat crossing are ready and these little dam things - all money well spent. I can't wait to queue up at the roundabouts at each end ;-)

    Report this comment

    Parsnip

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

  • Hi Alex, I am unable to attach a link due to posting restrictions put in place here. Happy to discuss further.

    Report this comment

    Whiley Boy

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

  • The line between Norwich and Stowmarket is really bumpy. The poor old carriages don't have adequate suspension to deal with it!

    Report this comment

    Parsnip

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

  • When's the All dualling going to be finished? I love train travel but not London-Norwich on a weekend.

    Report this comment

    a fine city

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • I'd like to know if traveling by rail in the UK on Sunday - any Sunday- means that we are the only country in Europe which may, at some stage, involve getting on a bus? Any reliable statistics about that issue? It is just that anecdotally every Sunday trip I made or family and friend have made involved a "rail replacement service". aka a buscoach!

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • So this is what we get from Chloe Smith's "once in a lifetime salvation of the railways" project? Norwich in 900...

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Spork-Pies

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • I don't want the railway safer. Speed kills. I want a bit of danger in my life. I want the trains to travel at the speeds both the trains and track were designed for. 55 minutes to London please, not 1 hour 10 mins (approx) or 1 hour 30 mins for a slower train. What is guaranteed is disruption, when they reconnect the signals up incorrectly *again* it will cause havoc everywhere! New trains for Shenfield to London isn't going to be seen as an improvement on the rest of the line.

    Report this comment

    Ipswich Entrepreneur

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • I'd like to see some sort of proof to that information whiley.

    Report this comment

    Odget

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Major disruption. So? Whats new.

    Report this comment

    norman hall

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • "and advise on alternative travel arrangements" ... it should be "advice".

    Report this comment

    Johnthebap

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Alex, you can't use links on here, it strips out the slashes and they don't work.

    Report this comment

    parkeg1

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Reduction in fares to reflect the limited services? No? Thought not.

    Report this comment

    Tedbundy

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Iceni Warrior says - when your commute dictates your mood, then you are a slave to your commute.

    Report this comment

    Iceni Warrior

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • This is just a rehash of the really poor article from a week ago? It is inaccurate and contains no journalism at all.

    Report this comment

    Mooseyt4

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Interestingly this comments system strips out slashes, ampersands and other special characters, which makes my writing look far worse than intended. Unhappy smilie! Whiley Boy, please qualify your reply with a link to more information.

    Report this comment

    Alex Holdroyd

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • The need is really to decentralize thing and not encourage even more commuting to London. Perhaps better and faster rail links to Cambridge which is becoming the Technology hub for East Anglia

    Report this comment

    BobE

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Hi Alex, I like trains. Norwich is earmarked for HS4 or 5. Regards, Whiley.

    Report this comment

    Whiley Boy

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • First 911, now this.

    Report this comment

    Partial Neil

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • As much as I'd hate to see the service disrupted anymore than usual, I personally welcome this and hope that it can be of beneift to the area. At last, we really will be able to cheer about the magnificent rail network in the region.

    Report this comment

    Whiley Boy

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

  • Work to improve bits and pieces of the line is all well and good. But, with all the talk of HS23. When will Norwich get a fast train to London so we can tap the commuter market properly? Until journeys are under 1hr we cannot compete with Peterborough, Cambs and Ely for London commuters and unless you've no grasp on economics everyone should be able to work out that that would be a big help to Norwich's economy thus providing instant payback on the outlay...lets start living in the 21st century...maybe WE could out do HS23...a link from Yarmouth to Birmingham's HS2 station would invigorate Yarmouth as a shipping port and provide a viable alternative to flights for fast access to the North of EnglandScotland.

    Report this comment

    Alex Holdroyd

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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