UK TRANSPORT Secretary Alistair Darling participated in a ceremony at Lichfield on February 22 to mark the start of work to quadruple a 19·3 km section of the West Coast Main Line between Tamworth and Armitage.

Network Rail has set up a dedicated team to manage the two-year project, now costed at £327m. Since the decision to proceed was approved by the Department for Transport last September, Alfred McAlpine has been building access roads so that bulk materials can be moved without interfering with rail traffic. Another contractor has been clearing vegetation and erecting a safety fence to separate the worksite from trains passing at 200 km/h.

A total of 30 bridges have to be widened or replaced. Birse is due to start work in May on a new four-track bridge over the River Tame, 5 km north of Tamworth. High speed crossovers will be installed at Amington, east of Tamworth, and just north of Lichfield. Signalling will be transferred to the North Staffordshire control centre at Stoke-on-Trent.

  • On February 28 the Strategic Rail Authority began consultation on its draft Route Utilisation Strategy for the West Midlands, which SRA’s Managing Director, Strategic Planning Jim Steer described as ’the crossroads of the national rail system’. With no prospect of investment in infrastructure or new trains for the next few years, the RUS recommends withdrawing local services on four regional routes so that the rolling stock can be used to alleviate congestion on peak-hour commuter services in and out of Birmingham.