Tunnel work hitting timetable

WORK on updating Ipswich railway tunnel is on schedule – and the main line to London should reopen as planned four weeks from today.The line closure has now reached the half-way point and both infrastructure owner Network Rail and train operator 'one' are delighted by the success of the work so far.

WORK on updating Ipswich railway tunnel is on schedule - and the main line to London should reopen as planned four weeks from today.

The line closure has now reached the half-way point and both infrastructure owner Network Rail and train operator 'one' are delighted by the success of the work so far.

The first half of the closure has involved a busy programme of work, with around 100 people a day working around-the-clock.

Workers have so far removed more than 600 metres of track from the 330 metre tunnel, demolished and excavated the concrete base which the track sits on, and replaced it with a new bed of concrete, 12 inches lower than before.

This will allow larger freight containers arriving from the Port of Felixstowe to connect with the rest of the UK.

The remaining four weeks of the closure will allow the new concrete bed to be levelled and set, then the new track installed.

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Meanwhile, the £9 million programme of track renewals is continuing between Manningtree and Ipswich.

To date, more than six and a half miles of track has been replaced, along with 18,360 sleepers and 43,000 tonnes of ballast.

During the closure up to 10,000 passengers a day are being bussed between Ipswich and Manningtree - and 'one' has released figures showing the operation is going very smoothly.

For the first three weeks of the tunnel closure period, mainline train services on the Norwich - London route (operating either side of the closed tunnel) recorded an overall average punctuality figure of 96 per cent with reliability at 99.6 pc.

Clive Morris, project co-ordinator for 'one', said: "With the tunnel project half-way through, it is pleasing to report that the alternative travel arrangements are working well.

"Connections between the train service and the buses and coaches are reliable and feedback from passengers has been positive and supportive."

Mark Livock, Network Rail Project Director, said: "We are extremely pleased with the way the work has progressed.

"Several key tasks have already been completed and we will be keeping up this momentum in the second half of the project.

"We are confident that the project will remain on target for the tunnel and surrounding track to re-open on Monday 6 September 2004."

Are you happy about the tunnel closure? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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