Upgrading the Great Northern Great Eastern line

The Great Northern Great Eastern is a joint line off the East Coast Main Line, running parallel with the main line for 86 miles from Werrington junction just north of Peterborough. It goes through Spalding, Sleaford, Lincoln and Gainsborough before reconnecting with the East Coast Main Line at Doncaster.

In 2014/15 Network Rail completed a £280 million improvement programme involving:

  • upgrading 61 level crossings with new safety technology;
  • renewing more than 80 miles of track to increase line speed from 60 mph to 75 mph for passenger trains and to 60 mph for freight trains;
  • renewing track in continuous welded rail, which reduces noise and vibration for people living or working near the railway;
  • renewing or refurbishing 57 bridges; and
  • replacing 1930s mechanical signalling with electronic modular systems controlled from the signalling control centre at Lincoln, allowing the line to be kept open for 24 hours a day.

Network Rail said that this would deliver better and faster services, particularly for freight, and reduce both the need for heavy maintenance for up to 15 years, and the likelihood of delays on the line because of infrastructure faults.[1]

The upgrade was opened by Rail minister Claire Perry on 9 March 2015.[2]

Effects on local residents

Stephen Phillips MP said in the House on 28 January 2016 that a “very large number” of his constituents were “suffering greatly increased noise and vibration following the upgrade of the line”, but that “Network Rail … is adamant that it will neither mitigate those effects nor compensate residents”. [3]

In September 2015 the Sleaford Target reported that Metheringham Parish Council was appealing to Network Rail to cut the speed of trains through the village after 55 residents vented their frustrations at a public meeting. Their complaints ranged from being kept awake by passing trains to suffering structural damage to their properties.[4]


The Land Compensation Act 1973, as amended, provides, in sections 1 and 9, for compensation to be payable where the value of a property is adversely affected by physical factors caused by the use of new or altered public works including roads and railways.

The Noise Insulation (Railways and Other Guided Systems) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/428), as amended, were made under section 20 of the 1973 Act. They create a duty in the case of new lines and additional tracks constructed alongside existing lines, to provide insulation, or a grant for the costs of carrying out insulation works, when noise exceeds 68dB LAeq 18h during the day and 63dB LAeq 6h at night. 

The Regulations also include discretionary powers to carry out insulation works or make grants for homes affected by altered lines or the noise of construction work where the relevant noise level is greater by at least 1 dB(A) than the prevailing level.

Regarding the specific noise issues affecting those living on the upgraded GNGE line, a spokesman for Network Rail told the Sleaford Target that: “GNGE work provided the capability for increased, and more reliable, passenger services on the East Coast Main Line whilst providing capacity for rail freight which will help to reduce congestion and pollution on the road network. The line was already in daily use for both passenger and freight rail services and there is therefore no automatic obligation to introduce noise or particulate mitigation measures for increases in service levels”.[5]


  1. Network Rail, Upgrading the Great Northern Great Eastern line [accessed 3 May 2016]
  2. DfT, “Claire Perry officially opens £280 million Lincolnshire rail improvements”, 9 March 2015
  3. HC Deb 28 January 2016, c406
  4. Freight increase in train traffic distresses Lincolnshire residents”, Sleaford Target, 5 September 2015
  5. ibid.

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