Posted 4th March 2015 | 2 Comments

Harbury landslip line to reopen three weeks early

NETWORK RAIL has revealed that the Harbury Tunnel landslip between Leamington Spa and Banbury will have been stablised and cleared by 13 March, which is three weeks earlier than originally expected.

The route between Birmingham and London Marylebone, the Thames Valley, the south coast and the port of Southampton is used by 130 passenger and freight trains a day. It has been closed since 31 January after a 350,000 tonne landslip threatened to block the line. The steeply-sided cutting had posed problems before.

Train services will return on Friday 13 March. Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “Thousands of passengers, and thousands of tonnes of freight, rely on this vital route every day. We have been working around the clock and are able to reopen the railway three weeks ahead of the original estimate.

“Harbury cutting has suffered from landslips for more than 150 years. We have secured the cutting and made it safe and will carry out long term repairs which will significantly reduce the chances of similar incidents in the future.

“I would like to thank passengers and the residents of Harbury for their ongoing patience while we fix the landslip and carry out further repairs ahead of the reopening.”

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I am sure passengers will join with me in welcoming this news. Having seen the scale of the challenge, I congratulate Network Rail’s engineers on reopening the line faster than expected. There is, of course, a longer term task in trying to make sure this sort of disruption does not happen in future."

Chiltern Railways was one of the operators most affected. Managing director Rob Brighouse said: “Every working day over 10,000 journeys are made with Chiltern Railways between the West Midlands and London, so we applaud the tireless work undertaken by our partner, Network Rail, that has resulted in an early reopening date.

“The Chiltern Main Line is a vital link for both commuters and business travellers and while our step-straight-on replacement bus service has worked well, the restoration of direct trains between London Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street will be welcomed by our customers.”

Andy Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry, added: “The early completion of the work is great news as we will again be able to provide through journeys by train for our long distance and local customers. We are grateful to Network Rail’s engineers for getting the line open again before the busy Easter holidays. The priority now is to rebuild our customers’ confidence in a reliable rail service, part of which will be the ongoing work to ensure such events are not repeated.”

Freightliner also welcomed the news, pointing out that the slip had caused 'substantial disruption'.

Network Rail said its engineers will remain at the site for several months yet, as work continues on the cutting and additional investigations of the surrounding area. Discussions will also take place with local people about the final landscaping of the area around the cutting.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    After the public relations disaster of Christmas Network Rail deserve credit for mobilising the engineering skills and resources required to enable restoration of this vital passenger and freight artery ahead of initial estimates.

    With our Victorian network increasingly prone to incidents such as this it is crucial that NR & TOC's have robust contingencies. Too often diversionary traincrew route knowledge has been sacrificed for short term cost saving. Passengers can be rerouted & can be transferred to road replacement services but contingencies should consider the overall customer service and satisfaction.

    Presented with a Harbury situation freight operators have no option but to divert. The investment made in diesel locomotives means that operators have the flexibility to keep the goods rolling. That is providing their traincrew compliment has an adequate route knowledge. Of equal importance given the loss of an important intermodal artery route cleared for hi cube boxes is that available diversionary routes are similarly route cleared.

  • Andrew, Birmingham

    Fantastic news and full credit for the Network Rail engineers whom have been working hard to restore the services to the line, especially working in difficult conditions over the last few weeks. Wonderful to see how well Chiltern and CrossCountry managed the disruption and as a regular traveller to Oxford, credit to those who worked to provide the replacement bus service, which was well-organised and seamless. However, now is the time to learn lessons and to identify other "at-risk" sites around the network and have full plans in place for when disruption occurs as to minimise the impact of such events on passengers in the future.