OREANDA-NEWS. The railway line between Crewe to Manchester and Sandbach to Northwich reopened today (Wednesday 24 February) after Network Rail completed a £17m project to protect Cheshire’s most iconic railway bridges from the elements for decades to come.

These vital refurbishments took place between 13 and 24 February and have made the railway safer and more reliable for passengers, motorists, pedestrians and canal users.

As part of Network Rail’s £40bn Railway Upgrade Plan to provide a bigger, better, more reliable railway for passengers, the Grade-II listed viaducts at Holmes Chapel and Peover – two of Cheshire’s most well-known architectural landmarks – received a full makeover including the removal of water stains on the walls, brickwork repairs and waterproofing.

At the same time, Network Rail engineers undertook strengthening work to the Hungerford Road bridge in Crewe, Shipbrook Road bridge in Rudheath and to the Whatcroft underbridge and Trent and Mersey Canal bridge in Davenham.

Network Rail and the train operators which run services on the line – Arriva Trains Wales, Northern Rail, CrossCountry and Virgin Trains – worked together to run as many trains as possible during the work and minimise the impact to passengers.

Terry Strickland, area director for Network Rail said: “This work was completed with the least amount of disruption to passengers and will mean there will be even less impact on services in the years to come because of the reduced need for maintenance work. Our engineers worked quickly and safely to complete these works on time and on budget and by completing all of these jobs at the same time, were able to save £500,000 of taxpayers’ money.

“We worked closely with the train operators involved to run as many trains as possible and I’d like to thank passengers for their patience while the improvements took place.”

A spokesperson from the Rail Delivery Group speaking on behalf of Virgin Trains, Northern Rail, CrossCountry and Arriva Trains said: "We would like to thank passengers for their patience during these works. This investment is vital and has delivered real benefits in helping to provide customers with a more reliable railway. All affected train operating companies worked closely with Network Rail to ensure alternative travel arrangements were in place wherever possible and to keep disruption to a minimum whilst this important work is carried out.”

Chris Wright, contracts manager for J. Murphy & Sons Limited, said: “With such a short timeframe to carry out a significant amount of work, this was always going to be a project that pushed us but the team rose to the challenge. We pulled out all the stops and our innovative approach to working meant that we handed back the line to Network Rail as planned to see the first train pass over the viaduct first thing this morning.”

About Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail’s £40bn spending plan for Britain’s railways for the five year period up to 31 March 2019. The plan is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to tremendous growth the railways have seen – a doubling of passengers in the past twenty years. The plan will deliver a bigger, better railway with more trains, longer trains, faster trains with more infrastructure, more reliable infrastructure and better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.6bn journeys by rail every year - double the number of 1996 - and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We’re investing £38bn in the railway by 2019 to deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.