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Tue June 15 2021

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Celebrating key workers: Railway crews keep transport links open

1 Apr 20 Among the front-line construction workers continuing to work on site during the coronavirus lockdown are Network Rail maintenance crews.

Track renewal at Carnforth
Track renewal at Carnforth

The issue of virus risk management and social distancing for these key workers is being taken seriously, as the photos here demonstrate.

Taking extra safety precautions to halt the spread of coronavirus, the team on the Wigan-Kirkby line has laid 1km of new track over the past three weekends, through the 172-year-old Upholland tunnel. The job involved laying 3,000 sleepers and 3,000 tonnes of ballast stone, as well as improving trackside drainage.

Among the crew was Howerd Kernahan, 50, a senior programme manager for Network Rail, and his 18-year-old track worker son Rafael, who are pictured below.

Howerd Kernahan and his son Rafael
Howerd Kernahan and his son Rafael

Howerd Kernahan is a former British Army captain who helped set up Camp Bastion in Afghanistan 15 years ago. He said: “I strongly believe it is important I’m out there on track leading my team at this difficult time. I feel honoured that my son and I can be part of the wider railway family doing our bit to keep critical supplies and key workers moving in Britain's hour of need.

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“The work we’ve done through Upholland tunnel will help make the Wigan-Kirkby line more reliable both now and long into the future.”

He added: “Throughout this job we have all worn protective equipment, including masks, and wherever possible have kept two metres between us in line with government social-distancing guidance.”

Elsewhere in the northwest region, 5.5km of new rail has been laid at Dog Kennel Bridge in Carnforth and there has been bridge and sea wall strengthening work continuing on the Cumbrian Coast line.

Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West and Central region, said: “During this difficult time for Britain, our focus is on keeping the railway open for critical supplies – including food, fuel and medicine – and key workers, including NHS medics and emergency services. Last weekend we carried out crucial maintenance and refurb work from London Euston to Gretna. I am very proud of how our frontline colleagues are safely rising to this challenge.”

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