The Anonymous Widower

Project Managers Having Fun In The East

A lot of people moan that London and the South East get all of the rail infrastructure investment, but next time you travel up and down the country from Edinburgh or Newcastle to London, moaning why the A1 is such an inferior road or your train seems always to be held up, then you should perhaps be pleased that things might be getting a bit better due to one of the largest rail projects in the UK, that will be commissioned later this year.

The Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway (GNGE) It ran from Doncaster to Cambridge via Lincoln, Sleaford and Spalding a dozen or so miles to the east of the East Coast Main line. It was built primarily as a freight line to get coal from Yorkshire to East Anglia.

Some southern parts of the line and the by-pass around Lincoln have been closed, but the rest of the line was used by passenger trains although gauge limitations meant that moving large freight trains was difficult.

One of the problems of the East Coast Main line is the number of freight trains that need to use the line. Between Peterborough and Doncaster, a lot of the line doesn’t have four tracks, so the fast express passenger trains have to mix it with much slower freight trains, which need to be passed.

This problem could have been solved by just four-tracking the main line, but Network Rail found that it would be cheaper to enable the GNGE to take all the freight traffic.

So a £230m project was started to upgrade the GNGE and provide the line with new track and signalling. As a by-product of the work tens of level crossings on the route will be eliminated.

This may seem a lot of money for essentially creating a freight by-pass from Peterborough to Doncaster, but according to this article in Rail Engineer it is a major project. Here’s what they say about the scope.

The first thing that strikes is the surprising scale of the scheme – some £330 million pounds is being spent on a stretch of railway which does not come across as particularly high profile. The changing pattern of freight has seen the route drop below the horizon and it is the resurgence in the last few years that has brought awareness of its potential to support, and help capacity, on the main East Coast route south of Doncaster. That scale can be summed up as 86 miles of route between Werrington and Doncaster and the renewal of 27% of the track and 53% of the point ends.

On top of the trackwork itself there are 49 underbridges, 19 overbridges and 82 culverts to be dealt with. There is even a tunnel where there is a 66 metre track-lowering job.

By comparison, the Borders Railway south from Edinburgh is a 50 km stretch of reopened railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank and is budgeted to cost £348m. It should open in 2015.

The completion of the updated GNGE line later this year, should have some major benefits.

As many of the freight trains will be removed from the East Coast Main line between Peterborough and Doncaster, this will mean that passenger trains on the line will have more paths and will be less likely to be slowed. So this should mean more and faster trains up and down from London to Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

The ease of getting freight trains between Peterborough and Doncaster should mean that more traffic from Felixstowe and London Gateway to the North will be able to go by rail.

In the longer term, will it mean that more passenger services are run from Peterborough to Lincoln and from Lincoln to Doncaster?

The only problem I can see, is that all these freight trains trundling through the level crossing at Lincoln are going to create a lot of congestion. I discussed this infamous crossing in this post. A new footbridge has been approved which could help, but this level crossing really needs to be bypassed and closed.


June 15, 2014 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. […] The only line which has been mentioned seriously for reopening, is a freight line between Spalding and March. I can’t find much detail, but I suspect it would allow freight trains from Felixstowe to the North to bypass Peterborough and join up with the GNGE, which I talked about here. […]

    Pingback by The Future Of Railways In East Anglia « The Anonymous Widower | June 22, 2014 | Reply

  2. […] If I have a bone to pick with Geoff, then it is that he doesn’t talk about The Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway (GNGE) , that I talked about in this post. […]

    Pingback by Will The Updated GNGE Affect Lincolnshire? « The Anonymous Widower | June 27, 2014 | Reply

  3. […] talked about the upgrade of the GNGE before and this mainly-freight line will take a lot of freight off the East Coast Main Line to […]

    Pingback by Is George Osborne A Closet Trainspotter? « The Anonymous Widower | July 5, 2014 | Reply

  4. […] The main reason is that it will allow freight trains between Felixstowe and the North to totally bypass the East Coast Main Line by using the upgraded GNGE. […]

    Pingback by What Will A Reopened March And Wisbech Railway Mean? « The Anonymous Widower | July 23, 2014 | Reply

  5. […] routes and tracks opened up to held the freight through, just like we have with the GNGE between Doncaster and Peterborough via Lincoln. Of course, we […]

    Pingback by Reasons To Go Virgin Or East Coast « The Anonymous Widower | July 31, 2014 | Reply

  6. […] But on the East Coast Main Line, there was already a decrepit bypass called the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Line from Peterborough to Doncaster. I’ve talked about this line before in Project Managers Have Fun In The East. […]

    Pingback by The Problems Of Upgrading Railways « The Anonymous Widower | June 4, 2015 | Reply

  7. […] But that would ignore the big project about thirty miles to the East – the updating of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway. I wrote about that project in Project Managers Having Fun In The East. […]

    Pingback by The Railways East Of Notingham « The Anonymous Widower | September 12, 2015 | Reply

  8. […] I talked about this upgrade in Project Managers Having Fun In The East. […]

    Pingback by Is Network Rail Only Part Of The Problem? « The Anonymous Widower | November 14, 2015 | Reply

  9. […] In Project Managers Having Fun In The East, I talked about hoe the Great Northern And Great Eastern Joint Line (GNGE) has been upgraded to be a valuable diversion route for freight trains on the East Coast Main Line. […]

    Pingback by Improving Services To Lincoln « The Anonymous Widower | August 4, 2016 | Reply

  10. […] Network Rail has spent £330million on upgrading the Great Northern Great Eastern Joint Railway into a freight link between Peterborough and Doncaster, which I wrote about in Project Managers Having Fun In The East. […]

    Pingback by Are The Trains In Ely Finally To Be Sorted? « The Anonymous Widower | January 28, 2017 | Reply

  11. […] and Great Eastern Joint Railway, was upgraded. I first wrote about this line six years ago in Project Managers Having Fun In The East and the route seems to be working well. It is now being augmented by the addition of the £200 […]

    Pingback by Northern Powerhouse Rail – Significant Upgrades Of The East Coast Main Line From Leeds To Newcastle (Via York And Darlington) And Restoration Of The Leamside Line « The Anonymous Widower | November 30, 2020 | Reply

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