Rail infrastructure specialist Spencer Group completed major capacity enhancement works a year ahead of the scheduled opening, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, by working in close collaboration with the client and all key stakeholders.
The complex £30m project to enable two additional services per hour into London King’s Cross from Stevenage has provided critical support to Network Rail as the immediate client and end user Govia Thameslink Railway. It included constructing a 130m-long platform, complete with approximately two kilometres of new electrified track and signalling.
Long-distance trains can now use the Hertford Loop to connect to Stevenage Station without using existing timetable space on the East Coast Main Line, which, in turn, allows the two additional services into London.
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris opened the platform and track, saying the improvements “will mean more frequent and reliable services for passengers who use the line day in, day out”.
The project saw a 200-strong multi-disciplinary team from Spencer Group complete extensive works during a “blockade” period across three days last Christmas and a further blockade involving a 160-strong team over three days in January.
Following the installation of new switches and crossings in late November and early December, these intense and time-critical periods of work saw the team modify the existing signalling power supply to increase capacity for the new railway line.
This work included installing five new signalling posts, signal post telephones and engineering electrical supply points, while civil works involved carrying out essential construction works to the existing platform and installing a cable troughing route.
The January blockade period saw part of the track completed and installation of new points and structures for the overhead line equipment.
In addition, a new platform was put in place with a passenger lift and stairs connecting into the existing station footbridge. Facilities on the platform include a heated waiting room, external seating, a ticket vending machine, ticket barriers with a canopy and welfare facilities for train drivers.
Earthworks and soft finishings, including soil seeding, have been completed in recent months, despite the significant challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
Joe Bennett, Production Director at Spencer Group, said: “We’re proud of our industry-leading capabilities on complex major rail infrastructure schemes and this project has been a prime example of our expertise and performance.
“We completed the design and build of this project using our multi-disciplinary experience, in-house capability and close partnerships with our specialist supply chain.
“By completing the major milestones over Christmas and in January, we minimised disruption to rail commuters and we also engaged with the community throughout the project, including site tours for local residents and regular letter drops to keep them updated.
“It has been a really successful project and that is also testament to outstanding collaborative working with the client.”
Phil Daniel, Network Rail Project Manager, said: “This project has been delivered thanks to the excellent teamworking ethic developed between Network Rail, Spencer Group, their supply chain and the major stakeholders.
“These strong relationships and the working practices they have permitted have allowed the platform to be opened over a year ahead of the original planned date, which would have been improved further if it wasn’t for the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The safe and secure way the team has adapted and re-planned the remaining works since the pandemic took effect is testament to the quality of the people working on this project and is representative of the approach seen over the past two years, throughout its design and delivery.”
The project’s scope and requirements ranged across earthworks, signalling, mechanical and electrical, structures, tunnelling, sustainable drainage, new electrification equipment and one mile of new track, as well as a new turnout from the Hertford Loop.
Alterations to the existing interlocking, including six signalling stages, operational and station telecoms, and new customer information systems were also part of the project.
In total, 286,000 hours were spent working on the project, with 71,000 tonnes of soil removed from the site.
Andy Beach, Spencer Group Operations Director, said: “I couldn’t be prouder of the delivery team, our supporting supply chain and the collaboration we have with our client, Network Rail.
“This has been a benchmark project for all involved and truly highlights the skill, expertise and knowledge we have in this sector.”
Spencer Group has delivered large-scale, multi-disciplinary projects to enhance the UK’s rail network for more than two decades.
From designing and building new platforms, to constructing whole stations and depots, to improving and extending network capacity and reliability, the company has established an industry-wide reputation for successful delivery of rail infrastructure projects.