Rail tunnel work keeps to schedule

By Rebecca SheppardTHESE are the first pictures of the work inside Ipswich railway tunnel that has brought mainline train services in the region to a halt.

By Rebecca Sheppard

THESE are the first pictures of the work inside Ipswich railway tunnel that has brought mainline train services in the region to a halt.

About 100 people a day are working around the clock to lower the track so taller freight containers from Felixstowe port can be taken through the tunnel.

The major project, which has reached the halfway point, has stopped trains running between Ipswich and Manningtree since July 11, but the work is on track to be completed by September 5.

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Workers have so far removed more than 600 metres of track from the tunnel, demolished and excavated the concrete base that the track sits on, and replaced it with a new bed of concrete 12 inches lower than before.

Network Rail project director, Mark Livock, said: "We are extremely pleased with the way the work has progressed. Several key tasks have already been completed and we will be keeping up this momentum in the second half of the project.

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"We are confident that the project will remain on target for the tunnel and surrounding track to reopen on September 6."

Once completed, the £5million Ipswich tunnel upgrade will be a key milestone in the project to upgrade the freight route between Felixstowe and the West Coast mainline.

It will allow the new 9ft 6in tall freight containers, which have been introduced under an international agreement, to be transported from Felixstowe to the Midlands.

It is hoped that will encourage the growth of the freight market and reduce the amount of lorries on East Anglia's already busy roads.

During the eight-week tunnel closure, up to 10,000 passengers a day have been transported by bus between Ipswich and Manningtree, where train services to London have been starting and finishing.

Clive Morris, project co-ordinator for rail operator One, said: "With the tunnel project halfway through, it is pleasing to report that the alternative travel arrangements are working well.

"Connections between the train service and the buses and coaches are reliable and feedback from passengers has been positive and supportive.

"We are grateful for the understanding and co-operation of our passengers while the tunnel is closed and we very much look forward to the resumption of normal services from September 6."

The remaining four weeks of the closure will allow the new concrete bed to be carefully levelled and set, then the new track will be installed.

Meanwhile, the £9m programme of track renewals is continuing between Manningtree and Ipswich, which will improve the reliability of the busy route and provide a smoother ride for passengers.

So far more than 6.5miles of track have been replaced, along with 18,360 sleepers and 43,000 tonnes of ballast.


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