Skip to main content

Successful completion of West Coast Main Line improvement work

Press Release   •   Jul 22, 2013 15:58 BST

The press release below was issued by Network Rail on 22 July 2013.  It is reproduced here with permission.

Successful completion of West Coast Main Line improvement work

Major improvement work on the railway between Warrington and Preston was successfully completed this morning after nine consecutive days of intensive engineering. Four life-expired junctions were replaced and three miles of track re-laid to help increase line speeds and make journeys more reliable and punctual for passengers.

During one of the hottest weeks of the year, a team of 720 men and women were on site 24 hours a day to deliver this significant investment. Over 900 barrels of water were consumed and 3,000 bottles of sun cream used as track temperatures rose as high as 46C.

Train services resumed this morning and were running at a speed of 80mph across one of the new junctions. This is the first time Network Rail has been able to reopen lines at this speed following major engineering work. Usually, 50mph speed restrictions are put in place to test the track but the longer closure meant all necessary checks could take place in advance, helping minimise disruption to passengers.

Martin Frobisher, area director for Network Rail, said: "I was in the cab of the first test train over the line this morning and I’m pleased that under some tough weather conditions we’ve been able to deliver on time, this vital improvement which will make journeys on the west coast main line more reliable and punctual. I would like to thank passengers for their support and cooperation during the closure, as well as our industry partners who we worked very closely with to prepare for and deliver this critical project."

Usually, Network Rail would have carried out work of this kind over a number of bank holiday weekends requiring train services to be replaced repeatedly by alternative transport. By carrying out the work in a nine-day continuous spell this summer, engineers were able to complete the replacement of four junctions around 16 months earlier to avoid disrupting rail travel plans for many weekends and nine bank holidays over the next two years.

Phil Bearpark, Production Director for Virgin Trains added: “I congratulate the engineering team at Network Rail for completing this very challenging piece of work on time. A key section of the West Coast Main Line will now immediately provide better reliability for our customers and in the longer term is another stepping stone in our quest for faster journey times for Anglo Scottish services”

Lee Wasnidge, Area Director for Northern, adds: “Thanks to this essential improvement project, we’ll be able to provide a better, more reliable service for our customers on a revitalised piece of railway. Considering the extremely warm weather and the busy summer holiday period, I’d really like to thank our customers for their patience during the disruption as well as our area teams on the ground for their commitment and diligence to keeping everyone on the move.”

Notes to editors

  • The project by numbers:
    • 3 miles of track to renew
    • 4 main line junctions upgraded
    • 18 miles of West Coast Main Line
    • 6,600 new railway sleepers laid
    • 21,500 tonnes of ballast
    • Materials delivered by 61 trains in 865 wagons
  • Network Rail worked with the train operators to arrange a replacement rail and road travel service and our joint aim was to enable passengers to travel by train as far as possible.
  • The four upgraded junctions include – Golbourne Junction, Bamfurlong, Wigan Springs Branch and Balshaw Lane. The reliability of the rail infrastructure has also been improved and it will be easier to maintain.

Visit our Media Room website for the latest news, press releases and the company factsheet. To receive our content live, as and when we publish it, you can sign up to follow us. Go to Follow Virgin Trains and click on ‘Create account’.

Virgin Trains has revolutionised rail travel by creating a high speed, high frequency service that has cut journey times and made rail journeys more comfortable. It has operated the West Coast passenger train franchise since 1997, serving key UK cities including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Preston and Glasgow.

Virgin Trains is the brand name of Virgin Rail Group (VRG), which is owned 51 percent by Virgin Group and 49 percent by Stagecoach. The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded VRG a franchise contract, which started on 9 December 2012 and will run for up to 23 months. The DfT announced on 26 March 2013 a programme for letting future franchises, with the long-term West Coast franchise expected to start in April 2017.

Virgin Trains has been recognised in numerous awards. In September 2012 Business Traveller magazine readers voted the company the Best UK Domestic Rail Operator for the sixth year running. In 2011 the company was named Best Rail Operator in the Group Leisure Awards (which it also won in 2009 and 2010). In 2011 Virgin Trains won the British Quality Foundation's Achievement Award for Customer Satisfaction.

Customers consistently rate the company the top long-distance rail franchise operator, as measured by the National Passenger Survey (NPS) run by industry watchdog Passenger Focus. In the most recent NPS (Spring 2013) overall satisfaction was 92%, equalling our best ever score from the previous survey (Autumn 2012).

Virgin Trains first achieved Investors In People accreditation in 2007 and this was renewed in 2010; the IIP Gold award was achieved in 2011. In May 2013 Virgin Trains renewed it accreditation against the criteria of the European Foundation for Quality Management's (EFQM) Excellence Model, which it originally achieved in May 2011 The company’s Learning and Development team won a National Training Awards 2011 West Midlands award for its Coaching Culture programme.

For more information about Virgin Trains visit the Virgin Trains' website  or the Media Room website