10 out of 10 for BAM Ritchies Blockades on Transpennine rail upgrade

Matt Ewing discusses how BAM Ritchies has just passed five years working on the Transpennine Route Upgrade (West) site investigation and ground investigation works, an ongoing railway route upgrade project located between Manchester and Leeds.
10 out of 10 for BAM Ritchies Blockades on Transpennine rail upgrade 10 out of 10 for BAM Ritchies Blockades on Transpennine rail upgrade 10 out of 10 for BAM Ritchies Blockades on Transpennine rail upgrade 10 out of 10 for BAM Ritchies Blockades on Transpennine rail upgrade 10 out of 10 for BAM Ritchies Blockades on Transpennine rail upgrade

BAM Ritchies has been carrying out site investigation and ground investigation works as part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade over the past five years

Matt Ewing

The Transpennine Route Upgrade (West) site investigation and ground investigation works (an ongoing railway route upgrade project located between Manchester and Leeds) have been in operation by BAM Ritchies for the past five years. As part of the project, blockades have been an integral part of works delivery for sites and activities that cannot be accommodated in standard rules of the route possessions. Largely this work comprises boreholes in areas where the network is tight - namely tunnels and sites where a position in the 4ft is the only solution.

Carrying out work in blockades can often be a challenging, stressful and difficult procedure to carry out. The pressure is on the delivery team to ensure that the works are completed within set timescales, safely and without any adverse effect on the railway passenger and infrastructure.

With regard to carrying out ground investigation work and the number of unknowns you can encounter, as with any civils project, planning relies on many contingencies being built into the plan at an early stage. The key is to be able to adapt.


The project itself has achieved many successes since work started in 2017 and was the recipient of the Ground Engineering Award for Team of the Year in 2021. BAM Ritchies has continually supported the project and has earnt a reputation for the safe, reliable and consistent delivery of works under possession and blockade conditions.

To date, BAM Ritchies has now delivered a total of 10 blockades, all on time and all with 100% or more delivery of planned works on each blockade. Solid planning, good route knowledge and reliable teams have been key to the successful predictable delivery of these projects.

Over 700m of boreholes have now been delivered in 10 blockades on the project, all meeting or exceeding planned targets and all safely handing back the network on completion.

Nine steps

Successful planning and predictable delivery of blockades relies heavily on collaboration, digital review, lean thinking, logistical review and most of all teamwork. The following nine steps outline the approach to success on the TRU West project.

Eliminate all works that can be achieved without blockade being required - We work with the designers to move positions, to achieve the same results by other methods where possible. This reduces the cost of the project and overall risk.

Reduce works to as practicable as possible - Through discussions with the designers, we can aim to get as much information from as few boreholes as possible, while targeting critical features. By putting less work in the blockade, we reduce the pressure on our site teams and make the work more achievable.

Plan early - works are identified as much as 12 months or more in advance. This allows time for possessions to be booked by the rail planning team, resources to be sought, and any additional training to be identified and ensures that all contractors are working together toward the same aim.

Regular meetings - Planning ramps up at 12 weeks out, to ensure that works are successful. Contractors providing rail plant (RRV), the rail planning team, and support staff are involved heavily from this stage so that all parties know what is required of them and work together.

Preparation on site - possessions are booked in advance of the main works to allow key staff and RRV providers view the site and identify local hazards are identified before the main works commence. In line with NR standards, buried service scans are carried out and services are identified.

Water supply - much of the successful delivery of borehole work relies on a plentiful water supply. Shifts leading up to the blockade are used to install water lines from water tankers parked off-track.

Reliable methods - The TRU team have worked together to ensure that the site set-ups are consistent and work with the plant available. Training shifts, practice lifts and working with reliable RRV partners throughout have led to consistent and successful site set-ups on site.

Deconflicting works - During blockades other contractors will also want access to the area. We work with other contractors to ensure they can access where possible and set up restricted working areas to safely segregate our work from others. These are all fed into the whiteboard information briefed to the larger workforce on the blockade by TRU Alliance partner Amey.

Staff - BAM Ritchies has a large number of skilled borehole crews who are used to working on infrastructure projects. The crews are selected for the shifts based on their skills and shift times planned to ensure fatigue management is carried out. Travel times are reduced by providing accommodation near the project for any travelling staff.

With our exceptional rail experience, BAM Ritchies has staff involved and engaged from planning to delivery, ensuring Network Rail standards are followed and working hand-in-hand with the rail planning teams. Hand-back engineers are employed through TRU partner Amey to monitor and measure the track at each location to ensure the route is safely handed back to Network Rail on completion of the works. 

The 10 BAM Ritchies Blockades

  • Stalybridge Tunnel boreholes - Christmas 2019 - seven boreholes to depths up to 7m
  • Scout Tunnel boreholes - Christmas 2020 -five boreholes to depths up to 7m
  • Huddersfield Station boreholes - Christmas 2020 - two boreholes to 40m
  • Huddersfield Sidings - March 2021 - six boreholes to depths of 40m during five 18-hour blockades of sidings (handed back each night)
  • Morley Tunnel (Batley Cutting) boreholes - November 2021 - two boreholes to 20m in a 28-hour weekend blockade
  • Slaithwaite Viaduct - Christmas 2021 - one borehole to 20m and six WS holes to 6m
  • Huddersfield Tunnel boreholes - Christmas 2021 - three boreholes to 15m
  • Bradley Wood Junction (1) - 1st August weekend - two boreholes to 30m, one to 20m
  • Bradley Wood Junction (2) - 2nd August weekend - two boreholes to 30m, one to 20m
  • Stalybridge Tunnel - 1st September weekend - nine boreholes to depths up to 14m

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