14 January 2013  
Network Rail digs deep to relay Shrugborough Tunnel

Speeds on part of the West Coast Main Line will be returning to 100 m.p.h.

after Network Rail and its contractors replaced the railway through the tunnel



RVR Historical Map


Shugborough Tunnel, just south of Stafford, was opened in 1847


As a result, it has been proving more and more difficult to maintain,

being designed in the days before container freight and high speed trains.


In order to keep the loading gauge constant through the tunnel,

Network Rail engineers and Amey Colas contractors

dug out the track and ballast, renewed the drainage

and replaced everything with new equipment.


More than 4,000 metres of new rail were put down,

along with 2300 sleepers, 7200 tonnes of ballast and 1000 metres of drainage

between 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 5 a.m. on January 2nd.


Inside Shugborough Tunnel while work continues

Photo courtesy Network Rail


Steve Featherstone, Network Rail's Programme Director, track, said:


"There were some substantial challenges we faced with the work at Shugborough


"and it took six months of preparatory work,

"including diverting cables and digging trial holes,

"before we could start work.


"This was owing due to the age of the tunnel

"and the fact that detailed plans of the structure were not available.


"I'm pleased to say that thanks to that preparation, we achieved the work on time

"and we now have a fast and reliable railway again through Shugborough."



Network Rail plant at the exit of Shugborough Tunnel while work continues inside

Photo courtesy Network Rail



The principle driver of the work was the

change in rail freight over the years

from heavy goods to containerised traffic.


These trains are large and rectangular,

while the tunnel was constructed as a complete oval,

(a Victorian technique for spreading the load equally)



Despite modern techniques of tamping and lining,

over time it became harder to maintain the gauge

and required constant close monitoring and maintenance intervention.


The line will be retamped and lined

before line speed operation resumes this month.



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December 2012


Train emerging from the northern portal of Shugborough Tunnel

on the West Coast Main Line near Stafford

Photo courtesy of Ricky Forshaw

From late on Christmas Eve to the early hours of 2 January

they will be completely renewing all the railway tracks

through the tunnel at a cost of about £3m.


The work is needed to realign the tracks, which naturally move as trains pass over them.

The movement is minute but builds up over a period of time

until it becomes necessary to take the tracks up and put them back in their correct position.


This is particularly important in a tunnel like Shugborough,

which is on the extremely busy West Coast Main Line between Rugeley and Stafford.


As well as passenger services, the tunnel is used by freight trains

carrying box-shaped containers, which are a tight fit through the arch-shaped tunnel.

The southern portal of Shugborough Tunnel on the west coast main line near Stafford

Photo courtesy of Ricky Forshaw


When the old tracks have been taken away,

Network Rail will completely renew the drainage through the tunnel before the new tracks are laid.


The old tracks and the sleepers they are fixed to will not be scrapped.

They will be reused elsewhere by Network Rail

as part of its commitment to the environment.


While not suitable for use on a high speed line,

they are perfectly good enough on lines with a lower speed,

so will be reused in its routine 2013/14 track renewals programme.


The northern portal of Shugborough Tunnel on the West Coast Main Line near Stafford

Photo courtesy of Ricky Forshaw


While the work is taking place, the railway line between

Lichfield Trent Valley, Rugeley Trent Valley and Stafford stations

will be closed from 9 pm on Christmas Eve until 7.30 am on Wednesday, 2 January.


Train services will be diverted where possible, or replaced by road transport,

so passengers are advised to check travel plans with their train operator

or online at www.nationalrail.co.uk



Media Relations Manager (North West & West Mids)

Tel: 0161 880 3142
Email: mediarelations@networkrail.co.uk


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