Transpennine Route Upgrade completes tunnelling hat trick

21 September 2023

The Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) is celebrating a triple tunnel triumph with the successful drilling of three new drainage tunnels beneath the line at Ulleskelf Mires in North Yorkshire.

In the UK’s first operation of its kind, three TBMs worked side by side beneath the four-track line 14.5km south of York.

The TRU East Alliance, comprising Network Rail, J Murphy & Sons, VolkerRail, Siemens and Systra, completed the work in just 54 hours. They bored below two lines in turn to reduce disruption to the rail services on the line.

The three tunnels, each 17.8m long and 1.8m in diameter, replace two 179-year-old brick arches, which were built on poor ground conditions and were at the end of their lives.

The team planned the installation to take place during the summer as the area is within a flood plain. The work will improve drainage and allow for more frequent, faster, heavier trains.

The three TBMs, named Katherine, Nicola and Emma after the three project managers on the scheme, removed 615 tonnes of earth. Tamper trains were on stand-by to ensure the tracks above were in working order and the railway was fully reopened on time.

The TRU is a multi-billion pound programme to upgrade the railway between Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds and York. TRU East Alliance is responsible for the works between Leeds and York.

As part of the upgrade to deliver more frequent, faster, greener trains on a more reliable railway the 113km route is being electrified. TRU is currently devising plans to fit overhead line equipment in the 5.2km-long Standedge Tunnel and 3.2km-long Morley Tunnels.