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Underground Lines
Issue 1 - 9th November 2011

 First there was ... FLOODLINES

then there was ... MUDLINES

and now we bring you ...

UNDERGROUND LINES!

Why underground lines?

Because the major engineering work being carried out this winter is through the tunnel between Kidderminster and Bewdley.

The drainage through the tunnel has been deteriorating for many years but it has now reached the point where it has failed. This has resulted in the ballast becoming badly contaminated with silt that has been washed down from the surrounding cutting walls and carried down from the top of the bank. The condition of the rail and sleepers has also reached the point at which it is necessary to carry out renewals to ensure that we can continue to operate trains throughout 2012 and beyond.

During the summer a specification for the work was produced and issued to several contractors who were invited to bid for the work. Tenders were submitted and once these had been evaluated a contractor was selected. The contractor chosen to carry out the work being Walsh Construction Ltd based in Worcestershire. 

The main works start on 3rd January with a continuous engineering possession (7 days per week) until 10th February. This will be followed with a period of Monday to Friday possessions between 20th February and 16th March to enable the works to be completed in time for the Spring Steam Gala 2012.

However the amount of work to be carried out within the allotted time scale is significant and to minimise the likelihood of overruns some preliminary work has been approved by the SVR Board. This preliminary work began on 31st October with Monday to Friday possessions until 2nd December. The preliminary work has been planned to eliminate any risk to the vital SVR Santa and Festive season trains.

Fortunately the condition of the tunnel itself is good and comparatively little work need to be carried out on the tunnel lining. However work to rectify damage to some of the tunnel refuges and general repointing of both portals will occur.

The preliminary work will entail digging a new soakaway alongside the track near to the Bewdley down distant signal. A new drain will also be provided from this soakaway to the Bewdley tunnel portal.

The main work beginning in January will see the track, ballast and signalling cables through the tunnel (and for a distance on both tunnel approaches) removed. When this has been done a new drainage system will be installed along both sides of the track to connect with the new main soakaway and drains at the Bewdley end of the tunnel.

 

The extent of the work to be carried out within the confines of the tunnel is considerable, but it is planned to have the line back in operation (albeit with some work to be completed during the following weeks) for the half term week between 11th and 19th February 2012. To achieve this it is essential that the preliminary work is carried out during November this year.

The main work on the new drainage system will begin at the Bewdley end and once this has progressed sufficiently the SVR Permanent Way gang will start on the track relaying from this end following the contractor through the tunnel. Once all of the major civil work is complete and the track reinstated new concealed signalling and telecommunication cables will be installed through the length of the worksite.

While the timescale to complete the work is extremely tight, working within the confines of a tunnel also presents additional problems that we have not encountered on the SVR in previous years. Such problems include working in confined spaces, in this case a single bore tunnel and the consequent the need for forced ventilation (plant and machinery exhaust fumes will be produced while working within the tunnel and special plant will need to be provided to ensure the workforce are not put at risk). Artificial and specific task lighting will also need to be provided through the tunnel. Access to the work area is also an issue as the nearest access is adjacent to the Stourport Road Bridge some 700m from the Kidderminster tunnel portal.

Here is an example of one of the other problems that we have not faced before - how do you lift and carry a preassembled 60ft track panel by crane into a single bore tunnel?

With the equipment we have available we cannot do this unless we hire in very expensive machinery (due to the extent of the overhang in front of the crane as you try to carry it in front of you). This means that the trackwork will have taken to site in component form and built in situ which adds considerably to the timescale involved.

It makes the work carried out at Arley last year seem like a stroll in the park.