Home England government Opening of the Werrington Tunnel, unlocking faster journeys on the East Coast Main Line

Opening of the Werrington Tunnel, unlocking faster journeys on the East Coast Main Line


  • revolutionary new tunnel dives under the east coast mainline allowing faster, more frequent and more reliable trips
  • British Engineering is the first of an 11,000 tonne curved concrete tunnel installed in one go
  • the opening is a big step forward for the £ 1.2bn upgrade to the east coast, which will offer more seats and allow faster journeys between London, the north of England and Scotland

Railways Minister Chris Heaton-Harris officially opened today (December 9, 2021) the all-new Werrington Tunnel which carries freight trains under the busy East Coast Mainline and ensures passenger services will no longer be disturbed by freight trains crossing the tracks.

The tunnel will provide significant improvements to passenger travel on the East Coast Mainline as it passes through Peterborough. By reducing congestion on existing tracks, the project will reduce travel time, allow more passenger trains to pass and improve the reliability of daily trips on the line.

This is another successful step in the £ 1.2billion east coast upgrade, which will provide more seats and allow faster journeys between London, the north of England and the ‘Scotland.

The completed project will help pave the way for the massive deployment of infrastructure in the North and Midlands recently announced in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP). The IRP plans a £ 96 billion investment in railways that will bring real and meaningful improvements to communities, supporting economic growth by transforming east-west and north-south links. The IRP will bring benefits faster to more places, many of which would have gained little under previous plans.

Railways Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said:

This country’s railways have long been home to engineering wonders and the new Werrington Tunnel shows that we are continuing this proud tradition.

The opening of this new section of railway marks the end of a project that saw Network Rail engineers achieve an incredible feat by installing an 11,000-ton concrete tunnel, clearing tracks and opening up new opportunities for rail freight.

Our investment in railways, including the unprecedented £ 96 billion we are spending under the Integrated Rail Plan, means there are even more opportunities to move goods by rail, taking heavyweight off the road.

The engineering to install the tunnel was a first in the UK, as the 11,000-ton curved concrete tunnel, 1,000 tons more than the Eiffel Tower, was placed under the railway tracks. existing in January of this year. The “curved box” was built next to the east coast mainline in 9, interconnected sections. The structure is 155 meters long, 9.5 meters wide and 5.1 meters high, with walls 1 meter thick.

In July, the new track installed inside the tunnel was connected to the existing lines. Work continued to install the signaling system which went into service in a single weekend in September. Vital tests of the new tunnel then took place to allow trains to start using the infrastructure.

Rob McIntosh, Managing Director of Network Rail’s Eastern Region, said:

From the construction of the huge concrete tunnel on-site next to the East Coast Mainline, to its placement in a UK first for engineering, to the installation of new track equipment and signaling to connect it to existing lines – it’s amazing to see the progress our teams have made on this revolutionary project.

Passengers traveling between London, Peterborough, the north of England and Scotland will benefit from faster and more reliable journeys, as longer freight trains can now dive under the famous passenger route.

I am proud of our team’s brilliant response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it achieved significant milestones in the project while it was at its peak. Thanks to innovative methods, we were also able to avoid major disruptions for passengers, as the services continued to operate during most of the works. We would like to thank the passengers as well as members of the community for their continued patience.

Williams-Shapps Rail Plan reforms will prepare rail freight for the future, investing in projects that increase capacity, improve performance and reduce carbon emissions, as government levels the country and rebuilds greener .

Rail freight offers real benefits for the economy and the environment – adding £ 2.5 billion to the UK economy per year, removing over 7 million truck trips from our roads each year and emitting a quarter carbon dioxide from trucks per tonne-kilometer driven.

John Smith, CEO from GB Railfreight said:

The Werrington Tunnel is a victory for both consumers and the rail freight industry. This will not only improve passenger journeys, but also crucially unlock much needed additional capacity on the network for freight services. This is a significant government investment that strengthens our industry’s efforts to create a more efficient supply chain across the UK, while making crucial progress on environmental and regional investment.

David Horne, Managing Director of LNER noted:

This unique project has seen a huge cross-sector collaboration, with Network Rail working with rail operators and project partners to deliver this essential part of the east coast upgrade. Completion of this project will reduce delays and build capacity to enable more LNER services that will be launched in our new schedule.

Simon Smith, Managing Director of Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, the main contractor for the project, said:

We are incredibly proud to have worked closely with Network Rail and our supply chain to deliver the UK’s first Curved Portal Push on the East Coast Mainline Upgrade to Werrington. The portal is a prime example of UK engineering and innovation expertise, harnessing these skills to improve passenger experiences between London and the north of England.