Morson Project Focus | 79 Days in Derby

safety matters derby station
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by Jessica Tabinor on


  • We take a look at the £200m, high profile and unique transformation project at Derby train station.

  • The project team had only a 79-day window to complete the work, alongside the added challenge of not closing the station

  • At the project’s peak, around 900 people were on site every day, as well as additional plant and machinery on constant standby to minimise delays in the event of a failure

On Sunday 22 July 2018, work started on the £200m resignalling at Derby, with the project team having a 79-day window to complete the work, alongside the added challenge - for the most part - of not closing the station.

Closing the station and diverting all services away from Derby would have brought severe disruption to commuters travelling throughout the East Midlands, whilst only saving around one week on the overall delivery schedule; therefore, the decision was made to keep as many trains in operation as possible. Only one day in the 79-day blockade saw there be no trains in operation, to provide detailed testing and commissioning of the newly installed signalling.

At the project’s peak, around 900 people were on site every day, as well as additional plant and machinery on constant standby to minimise delays in the event of a failure.

Led by Network Rail, the project involved:

  • Replacing 17km of track and laying 150,000 tonnes of ballast.
  • Installing 79 sets of points, 65 new signals and 10 new signal gantries.
  • Creating one new platform.

The Derby blockade required project track engineers to untangle and simplify the existing layout into the station, which had seen only slight modifications since the Victorian era. A total of eight different track layout options were proposed, with the chosen design resulting in fewer trains being held up outside of the station waiting for a platform, as well as improved journey times by increasing line speeds through the station from 15mph to up to 40 mph through all the Platforms.

The new design also brought significant improvements to rail traffic, with six passenger trains now able to move simultaneously at the London Road Junction, instead of the previous two. The new layout now also allows movements in and out of the station on both the London and Birmingham routes at the same time, something that wasn’t previously morson jobs Installing a new island platform created two additional platforms at Derby Station: Platform 6 for passenger services, which will primarily be used for London services and includes two new lifts and a First-Class lounge. Platform 7 is to be used as a service platform to collect train crew, whilst providing additional facilities to scale up the station’s capabilities in emergency situations and was used to run London trains from during the works in August. Additional work was also delivered to realign and lengthen platforms 2-5.

Signalling upgrades meant that the station is now controlled from the East Midlands Control Centre in Derby, marking the closure of the Derby Power Signal Box that first opened in 1969.

Maintaining safety throughout a project that sat adjacent to an operational railway was a priority, with physical barriers created, where possible, between worksites and running lines, as well as every staff member being required to carry out a ‘line open to traffic brief’ that explained which lines were open at what times.

July’s month-long heatwave, which saw temperatures soar to more than 30 degrees, also created various issues. Dust suppression units were erected around the station, as the dryness of the ballast created more dust than normal, and all staff operating within the 30m exclusion zone wore mandatory full breathing PPE.

On Monday 8 October 2018, normal train services resumed in and out of Derby Station, making the successful completion of the 79-day transformation.

The project’s overall mission was never to directly increase capacity on the line, despite passenger numbers rising to 3.7m during 2017, but to improve the overall flow of traffic with smoother journeys and less disruption.

The 79-day Blockade has renewed and replaced life-expired equipment, whilst improving the layout to and from Derby by removing a key bottleneck, meaning better journeys for millions of passengers each year and ensuring the station can continue providing future capacity improvements through new trains and additional infrastructure upgrades.

Morson’s involvement

Sub-contracted on behalf of AmeySersa, we supplied numerous Vital Human Resources personnel to the project spanning a range of capacities, from site supervisors, through to crane controllers and track gangs, as well as a number of our Morson Vital Training apprentices. Our involvement began in advance of the blockade, laying the foundations required for the 79-day window, and we are currently still involved in the finishing touches and clean up today.

It was a huge honour to be part of such a high profile and unique project made up of several mini blockades throughout the partial closure. We were one of only two manpower providers delivering the specialist skills needed to complete the £200m project and a huge credit goes out to all our Vital operatives who were involved, with numerous comments on how proud they were to see the project taking shape each day.

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