Ipswich tunnel back in action
EIGHT weeks of disruption for travellers between Suffolk and London came to an end today as the first trains passed through the enlarged tunnel.And while most passengers welcomed the fact that they would not have to use buses for part of their journey, some were left hoping that the reliability displayed during the line closure would continue now services are back to normal.
By Paul Geater
EIGHT weeks of disruption for travellers between Suffolk and London came to an end today as the first trains passed through the enlarged tunnel.
And while most passengers welcomed the fact that they would not have to use buses for part of their journey, some were left hoping that the reliability displayed during the line closure would continue now services are back to normal.
Ipswich tunnel formally reopened with the first through train from Ipswich to capital in eight weeks.
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Officials from infrastructure company Network Rail were on hand to see the resumption of normal services – and were delighted by what had happened.
Project director Mark Livock said: "The work went exactly as we had planned, everything has worked very well and we are very pleased by that.
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"We had done two years of preparation for the tunnel closure, we knew what we had to do and when we had to do it.
"It all worked to plan and here we are with the tunnel re-opened exactly on schedule."
As well as the £5 million work to lower the track through the tunnel, Network Rail took advantage of the line closure to replace 12 miles of track between Ipswich and Manningtree at a cost of a further £9 million.
The company also replaced the level crossing at Bentley.
Mr Livcock said: "The shadow of the closure enabled us to take the 'big bang' approach and ensure that this section of the line is now right up to date."
The Ipswich tunnel work was the last major project on the line between Felixstowe and London, and the larger containers will start running on the line from the middle of next month.
Rail operating company 'one' organised the replacement bus service, and had been pleased by how well it had operated.
Communications manager Peter Meades said: "We had done a lot of planning, but you never know exactly how things will work until they start coming into operation – but things seem to have gone very well.
"Passengers were kept informed at every stage – and that was very important for everyone."
Passengers travelling to London today were generally pleased to be able to travel direct again – but praised the operation over the last eight weeks.
Commuter John McGlynn, from Ipswich, said: "I'm glad it's open again – it gives me an extra 30 minutes in bed in the morning!
"But having said that, the service has been very good over the last eight weeks, it did what it said it would!"
Peter Mackenzie, from Copdock, found the service more convenient during the blockade.
"Because I live on the south side of the town, I drove to Manningtree and as the trains started from there I always got a seat.
"I have a seat reservation on the train today, but I don't know if it will have been kept – if not I will have to stand all the way to London," he said.
"But I accept I am in the minority and the tunnel re-opening is very good for most passengers."
Karen Coe from Ipswich had been surprised by the service during the closure: She said: "It's been fine. I had expected major problems, but in the event everything ran very smoothly. Let's hope that continues now the line is open again."
The first trains through the tunnel were actually engineering tests late yesterday afternoon before the tunnel was formally handed back to the operational division of Network Rail at 6.15pm last night.
Mr Livock said the smooth operation which had seen the work completed on target would now be used as a template for other major engineering projects on the rail network.
"This has worked very well – and shows the benefit of careful advanced planning.
"We shall certainly take lessons we have learned here into other projects – as we've applied lessons from other projects in this case," he added.
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