15 December 2009

New station built in 7 days

Flood-stricken Workington had a second railway station open for train services on 30 November, having been built by Network Rail's (NR) in just seven days, to the tune of £300,000.

The images of Cockermouth's main street submerged under 8 feet of flood water will stay with me for a very long time. While much of the media's attention focused in this Cumbrian town, it was Workington that bore the brunt of disruption following the closure of all-but-one of its road bridges.

Due to the geography of the area, residents on the north side of the banks of the River Derwent were forced to undertake a 50 mile round trip to reach the southern side and vice versa. A footbridge is being installed by the Armed Forces, but problems still remain for motorists. The flooding had very little effect on Northern's train services in the area, with the main rail viaduct across the Derwent holding up to the deluge as it crosses the river at a much wider point.

The new station - Workington North - was tirelessly built non-stop from the day after the flood water receded and opened with local dignitaries present. An additional, free service operates between Workington and Maryport calling at Flimby and Workington North, costing £216,000 and being provided by Direct Rail Services (DRS) on behalf of the DfT until the end of the year.

It's heartening to see how all agencies rose to the challenge of improving infrastructure as soon as was possible. Personally, I didn't believe residents stood a cat-in-hell's-chance of a station within seven days owing the the reams of bureaucracy such projects are wrapped in, but I am more than happy to have been proven wrong. Ownership of the land on which sits Workington North was speedily confirmed by the local council and planning application granted virtually immediately.

The free shuttle service being operated by DRS is using three Mk3 coaches (with air conditioning) and a Mk2 brake open coach. Class 47 locos are coupled at each end.

Workington has two rail bridges and it was fortunate that the lesser of the two, linking the docks, was severely damaged by the flood water, with central piers washed away.

It would be nice to see the speed at which NR built Workington North applied to its other projects up and down the country. Admittedly, in some cases the sticking points can arise from its partners, but more often than not delays lay firmly at NR's feet. Not that this should detract from the gusto at which residents in Workington have been given a life line. Credit all round! (GWB)