A massive 11,000 tonne curved concrete box (tunnel) is to be ‘pushed under’ Britain’s railway, as part of the £1.2 billion upgrade of the East Coast Main Line.
Network Rail described the project as a first for UK engineering. Work to build the tunnel has been ongoing at the side of the railway for the last nine months – with trains speeding past from Edinburgh to London the entire time.
The work is being carried out at Werrington, north of Peterborough, where the East Coast Main Line is crossed by a slow-moving east-weight freight train. The tunnel will take slower freight trains off the fast route, thus speeding up services and improving reliability.
The massive concrete structure, which weighs one tonne more than the Eiffel Tower, will be pushed into place at 150cm per hour along pre-installed guiding supports, after the three tracks above have been temporarily removed.
Massive jacks will be used to propel and steer it into place. Network Rail said it is the first time this technique has been used in this way in the UK.
The rail management firm added that, by pre-constructing the structure, it will be installed in just nine days – whereas, had a traditional method of installing a tunnel been used, it would have meant the line would’ve been shut for a month.
Paul Rutter, route director for Network Rail’s East Coast Route, said, “This is a massive engineering challenge, but it will avoid hundreds of hours of closure on one of the most important lines in the country.
“This is industry leading work that really puts the needs of passengers first in how we approach improvement work.
“In the past, Network Rail might have approached this problem by thinking about the easiest way to do the engineering. Instead, I’m proud to say we have come up with a creative and innovative solution that will deliver massive benefits while keeping disruption to a minimum.”
Rail minister, Chris Heaton Harris, added, “This is an astonishing feat, underlining this country’s reputation for pioneering engineering and delivering major upgrades for passengers.
“By undertaking a project of this magnitude now we are making the most of our railways being quieter, putting in place vital new infrastructure that will improve our railways for when passengers are safe to return.”