Commuters face double trouble in the coming
months, with two major sets of engineering works on the main rail line
through Coventry and Warwickshire.
Upgrading of the West Coast Main Line (WCML)
means the tracks into Birmingham will be closed for 19 days in August,
leading to lengthy delays.
Some trains heading north from London, Rugby and
Coventry will only be able to travel as far as Birmingham
International. There will be a limited service on to the city centre,
using other lines, with commuters having to get on to another train or
catch a bus.
And it will be a similar position for 10 days in
December, for commuters heading the other way. Few trains will be able
to get into Euston in another stage of the work – and many people
will have to get off at Watford Junction, and then continue by other
It is all part of an upgrade to the WCML
connecting London with the Midlands and Scotland. That means new
faster trains will be able to operate, and journey times should be
slashed. The current track and signalling could not cope with the high
But it won’t be finished until 2002. And until
then, commuters will have to put up with more engineering works than
normal with track and signals having to be completely replaced. Rail
bosses say the benefits will outweigh the temporary disruption.
New trains are on order, and they should be able
to travel at 125mph from 2002, and another set of works should raise
that to 140mph three years later.
Tony Fletcher, Railtrack’s West Coast Route
modernisation general manager, said of the £36 million scheme at
Birmingham next month:
“Proof House is a key junction on the West
Coast route handling 800 trains daily. This multi-million investment
will enable increased capacity and operational flexibility to cope
with timetable demands.”
The junction dates back to the nineteenth-century
and was last altered in the 1960s.
The Proof House work will be the first major rail
project to be used as a test site for an environmental management
system, certified to BS EN ISO 14001 level.
This should ensure effective management of
traffic, waste, noise and pollution and provide protection for plants,
maximising recycling opportunities and ensuring good communication
with the local community.
Overall, some £5.6 billion is being spent on the
WCML upgrade. It should see Virgin Train services from Coventry
leaving every 15 minutes through the day.
The journey time to London cut back to well under
an hour from the city and Nuneaton, and about 45 minutes from Rugby.
Andy Cooper, managing director of Central Trains,
“The West Midlands has an excellent passenger
train network, but the considerable growth in passenger numbers
using the service means that we need to keep investing in
infrastructure and trains.
“This project is a significant part of that
investment and Central Trains welcomes this commitment to improving
Chris Green, Virgin Trains chief executive, said
“The Proof House scheme is vital to our
future reliability and the gain will be worth the pain in August.
Railtrack can be sure of our fullest support in this scheme.”
Rob Donald, the director general of Centro that
oversees public transport in the former West Midlands county, said:
“Centro supports this scheme to ease a
notorious bottleneck and bring about improvements to the punctuality
and performance of our services.”
arrival of faster trains is the reason for the proposed closure of the
level crossings at Canley, Berkswell and Tile Hill crossings.