A £250M project to improve rail travel through Stafford has taken two major steps forward.
The Stafford Area Improvements Programme will increase capacity and boost reliability once complete, as well as tackling a major bottleneck on the West Coast Main Line north of Stafford.
The first phase of the scheme, to improve line speeds between Crewe and Norton Bridge, has now been completed, Staffordshire Alliance, the organisation delivering the project, announced on Friday.
Speeds on the “slow” 75mph lines have been increased to 100mph, four new signals were installed and modifications made to overhead line equipment.
And last week Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin gave the green light for the third phase of the project – the construction of a new railway flyover at Norton Bridge.
The main work on the flyover is expected to begin shortly. It will involve the construction of six miles of new 100mph railway, 10 new bridge structures, a bridge enhancement, four river diversions, major environmental mitigation works and pipeline, road and footpath diversions.
Preparatory work has already been carried out in the area, but Staffordshire Alliance required a Development Consent Order (DCO) from the Government for the main work to proceed.
Work on the flyover is expected to be completed in summer 2016. The second phase of the project, which includes the installation of a new freight loop at Stafford station and the replacement of life expired signalling, telecoms and power supplies, began earlier this year and is expected to be completed by late 2015.
Ian Jones, head of the Staffordshire Alliance, said: “With the West Coast main line set to reach capacity in just five years time, the flyover at Norton Bridge is one of the last improvements which can be made on the route which will help to provide a better service for passengers. It will remove a major pinch point and allow faster, more frequent and reliable passenger and freight services.
“Building on the recent completion of line speed improvements between Crewe and Norton Bridge, this has been a milestone month for the programme. Our key focus now is to deliver these works efficiently and effectively and minimise the impact they will have on the local community.”
Residents and rail users can find out more about the project at a public information event on April 24 at Chebsey Village Hall, School Lane, Chebsey. Members of the Norton Bridge project team will be on hand to answer questions from 4pm to 8pm.