The reopening of the railway line between Okehampton and Exeter is one more step after Network Rail finished relaying the new track and ties last week.
Following the confirmation of government funding in March, engineers have been working on the modernization of the 17 km stretch of track as part of the government fund for the restoration of your railway.
Services are expected to restart later this year. The line will be the first project to see the resumption of services under the government fund, launched in January 2020 to restore deleted local services and restore closed stations.
In addition to laying new tracks and ties, Network Rail engineers also worked on drainage, fencing and site preparation for the new track.
More than 17 km of new track have been successfully laid and 24,000 concrete sleepers installed using an innovative NTC (New Track Construction) machine, which is simultaneously capable of uniformly depositing the sleepers in position, laying track on top, then secure it in place.
The concrete sleepers, which were stored at the yard adjacent to Okehampton station, were transported along the Dartmoor line using a Class 56 locomotive train which pushed a set of wagons to A quarter mile containing an average of 2,430 ties per trip at a speed of 5 mph.
Almost all of the 29,000 tonnes of ballast have also been installed and will be followed by the tamping process. This involves a machine moving along the newly laid railroad track and inserting vibrating metal rods into the ballast to compact it so that it effectively supports the track while lifting the track so that it is level.
When completed, this process helps the train’s wheels align with the track, which provides a smoother ride for passengers and prevents the train’s wheels from damaging the track.
To allow engineers to work through the night, over four miles of lights were also erected. These lights were powered by silent generators to ensure residents living near the Dartmoor line were disturbed as little as possible.
Now that the main elements of the track relay works are complete, Network Rail will focus on other aspects of the project, including the modernization of several level crossings, the installation of new GSM-R masts (the mobile communication system railway), repair of bridges as well as the conduct of technical test trains to check the quality of the newly laid track.
Becky Tipper, Project Manager for the Network Rail Project, described the work so far as “no small feat”.
She said: “We are delighted with the progress made by the team and this is due to the hard work and dedication of our engineers involved in this project.
“It was also very heartwarming to see such interest and support from the local community. We are committed to reopening this important railway line as quickly and safely as possible and look forward to the resumption of regular passenger services in the not too distant future. “
Railways Minister Chris Heaton-Harris added: “It’s great that so much progress has already been made on this project. Network Rail engineers have done an incredible job installing 17 km of new track and 24,000 ties, bringing us one step closer to restoring scheduled passenger services later this year.
“Restoring the links between our communities and creating new ones is essential to take the UK to the next level. “
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