A direct rail link between Halifax and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire is on track to re-open to passengers this summer, introducing the first regular services for 30 years.
The long-neglected lines have been renewed in a £3 million design-and-construct project awarded by Railtrack to Kvaerner Construction. With the year-long civils and rail engineering works just completed, final testing and commissioning is now under way.
Once passed by the HM Railway Inspectorate, the reinstalled link is set to open for the start of the summer timetables in May.
Two 1.5-mile stretches of curved track, or chordlines, have been restored between the two towns. This involved clearing dense foliage and undergrowth, replacing life expired permanent way, reinstating four junctions and installing new signalling and trackside telecommunications along the entire route - plus renovation and repairs to two tunnels, three bridges and a signal box.
Several structures required strengthening, as the route has been constructed to carry freight as well as passenger traffic. The restored chordlines link Halifax and Huddersfield via a six-mile stretch of the Lancashire & Yorkshire freight line – the L&Y.
The first chordline is a twin-track section between Dryclough Junction, on the Halifax –Blackburn line, and Greetland Junction on the L&Y line. The second, a single-line track between Bradley Wood and Bradley Junction, links the L&Y line with the main Huddersfield to Leeds line.
The £5 million capital cost of the new link, which also includes a new station, is mainly funded by the Government’s Capital Challenge scheme through Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
Rail travellers can now look forward to an hourly service six days a week and two-hourly on Sundays. Journey times between Huddersfield and Halifax will be 20-25 minutes, and the new route opens up access to Manchester Airport, York and beyond.
The project has served to underline Kvaerner’s breadth of capabilities in the expanding rail engineering sector, embracing both civils and infrastructure.
Geoff Garfield, project manager for Kvaerner Construction, spoke enthusiastically about the close co-ordination between Kvaerner Construction, Railtrack Project Delivery London North Eastern Zone, designers CEDG, and sub-contractors.
“It was highly successful in the way we combined all the railway disciplines,” he said. “Everyone worked together to complete a difficult project, with many different interfaces, on time and to budget, without compromising safety standards.
“A key project interface has been the refurbishment of the four junctions where new railway meets old”.
The works were designed to be installed within the Rules of the Route Possession periods when no trains are running. This has ensured that normal services have not been disrupted.
Repairs to ageing structures on the derelict lines also posed special challenges. On the Greetland Curve, tests on a five-span steel viaduct over the River Calder revealed that the structure would not bear the weight of fully-ballasted track without costly restoration work.
Following a joint value engineering investigation by Railtrack and Kvaerner, timber waybeams were chosen to support the new track – a best value solution. But major steelwork repairs were still needed along with parapet renewal and waterproofing.
Various other restoration works were carried out on the Greetland stretch – a 100-metre tunnel at Salterhebble, a road bridge, canal bridge and signal box, plus another 130-metre tunnel on the Bradley Curve.
Jim Crawford, Railtrack project manager, observed: “Kvaerner Construction’s management of sub-contractors and the different engineering disciplines has been good. They have maintained their programme and we are on target for completion.
“Railtrack has worked very closely with West Yorkshire PTE to deliver the project. Which will bring considerable benefit to the community. Capital Challenge has funding constraints which have meant robust programming by the Railtrack Project deliver team has been essential to meet route opening for May”.
Chris Howe, director of rail projects for Kvaerner Construction said: “A new infrastructure project like this, involving a broad range of engineering applications, relies on competent management and systems to tie all the components into one package.”
Commenting on the project outcome, he added: “It underlines our commitment to the rail industry in supporting these complex, multi-functional design-and-construct projects with an integrated solution.
“Although this was a conventional lump-sum turnkey contract, we shared a close-working, team-based philosophy. In fact, something like 80 per cent of Kvaerner Construction’s contracting business these days is based on a partnering-style relationship with clients.”
Kvaerner Construction is currently undertaking a partnering contract with Railtrack’s London North-East Zone on one of the UK’s biggest railbridge reconstruction schemes - on the high-speed East Coast Main Line at Newark Dyke, Nottinghamshire. It is also building the Channel Tunnel Rail Link through Ashford in Kent and carrying out a formation stabilisation scheme for Railtrack in Scotland.
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