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Centre for Digital Built Britain


The Stafford Area Improvement Programme was a joint venture by Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Volker Rail and Network Rail to remove a bottleneck in the West Coast Main Line that resulted in high- speed trains being impeded by slower local passenger services or by goods trains. To alleviate this bottleneck a major upgrade of the line was undertaken, including construction of 10 new bridges. The bridges built for the programme were designed by Atkins using Building Information Modelling (BIM) from the outset. Furthermore, the contractor, Laing O’Rourke, used off-site construction techniques wherever possible. 

The Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) and Laing O’Rourke Centre at Cambridge has been collaborating with Network Rail in the fibre-optic strain monitoring of two of the recently built railway bridges over the West Coast Mainline in Staffordshire. 

Next Steps

With the installation of new permanently installed fibre-optic analysers that are needed for this long-term performance monitoring, this project aims to turn the two instrumented Staffordshire bridges into a showcase for: 

  • use of real time data analytics and integration with digital twins; 
  • maximisation of the benefits of the prototype bridge monitoring systems; 
  • demonstrating their capability for remote, real- time assessment.