Network Rail has completed relaying 11 miles of track between Okehampton and Coleford Junction ahead of the route’s reopening to passenger services later this year.
Around 11 miles of track needed to be relaid, with 24,000 sleepers replaced with new concrete equivalents and almost 29,000 tonnes of ballast installed. MR visited exclusively in early May to witness progress, which despite unpredictably hot weather in April was firmly on-target.
Tamping will now take place on the track, followed by operation of test trains to prove its quality.
Particular attention on the route is being paid to drainage, which it is thought has not received major attention since the late 1950s or early 1960s. The Railvac machine was used to clear debris from the cess and ensure water can flow freely again. Once old track has been lifted and the formation scraped to the required level, Balfour Beatty’s New Track Construction machine laid sleepers and threaded rail onto them before ballasting took place.
While track laying is largely complete, there is considerable work to do before the route can be reopened to National Rail services. Five GSM-R masts need to be installed for which NR has applied for prior approvals. Considerable attention is also needed on lineside fencing – much of which is unsuitable – and in managing vegetation.
An announcement on when passenger services will start is expected in late summer.