Christmas blockade works completed for removing major bottleneck in Ipswich

A record-breaking programme of upgrades to Britain’s rail network was successfully completed over the Christmas and New Year period, providing new tracks, new and longer platforms, new lifts and footbridges at stations, upgraded signalling equipment and electrification equipment to allow cleaner, faster trains to run.

Between 24 and 30 December 2013, Spencer Rail completed a vital part of the Ipswich rail chord project which will provide more capacity and fewer delays on the Great Eastern line. This brings the project a step closer to completion.

During what was one of the wettest and windiest festive periods on record, we successfully demolished and removed the old steel bridge weighing 190 tonnes over the River Gipping.

Other work included:

  • Breaking the old bridge into the three sections using a 1000te crane
  • Removed the existing track and ballast stones
  • Installed a new steel deck bridge
  • Installed concrete walls of the new bridge lifted into place using cranes
  • Installed new tracks and junction for the new Chord linking the East Suffolk line and the London Liverpool Street to Norwich line

Network Rail commissioned Spencer Rail as the principal contractor to build a new 1.2km stretch of track, or ‘chord’, north of Ipswich goods yard linking the East Suffolk line and Great Eastern main line on part of the site of the former Harris meat factory.

The chord will remove the need for freight trains travelling to and from the Port of Felixstowe to use the sidings adjacent to Ipswich station as a turning point, eliminating a major bottleneck on the busy Great Eastern main line and freeing up capacity for both passenger and freight services.

Raj Sinha, managing director, Spencer Rail, said: “Our work at Ipswich is a fantastic example of what can be achieved through strong and collaborative working relationships with Network Rail and our supply chain partners. This was a fantastic achievement by a team that has worked tirelessly and meticulously throughout the works and whilst there is still a lot of work to do, our work over the Christmas period has brought the project a step closer to completion.

Richard Schofield, route managing director, Network Rail, said: “Demand for the railway continues to grow and working in alliance with our contractors demonstrates our commitment to invest in the railway.

It is vital that we create additional capacity alongside other enhancements along the cross country route between Felixstowe and Nuneaton. This is a key part of our plans to take more freight off roads and onto rail.”

The project is set to be completed by April 2014, and includes the completion of four new bridges, two new embankments, a 350m retaining wall, 1.2km of new track and signalling equipment, and improvements to the existing overhead line equipment.

The chord forms an important part of Network Rail’s strategic freight network, a programme of investment to improve freight capacity across Britain’s railway.