Chiltern line £76m track and signalling upgrade complete after nine-day closure
The railway line between Banbury, Bicester and Leamington Spa reopened yesterday (8 August) after nine days of closure to allow Network Rail engineers to complete a £76m upgrade to the Chiltern main line’s track and signalling.
Although much of the work had already taken place prior to the closure, workers have now finished replacing the signalling through Banbury with a more reliable system with modern LED signals, set to be controlled from the West Midlands Signalling Centre in Birmingham.
Martin Ball, area director for Network Rail, said: “This work was completed on time and with the least amount of disruption to passengers and is an important part of modernising the railway through the area to provide passengers with a more reliable, better railway.
“Our engineers worked quickly and safely to complete this work on time and on budget and we worked closely with the train operators involved to carefully plan these improvements to cause the least amount of disruption to passengers.”
So far in the project, 14,000m of new rail have been laid, 50,000 tonnes of ballast have been used, and a total of 24 new points, which allow trains to change tracks, have been installed.
In addition to the new track layout and signalling, a fourth platform was built to allow for greater capacity and flexibility at Banbury station. This also provides the needed infrastructure for a new depot south of Banbury, which will provide essential maintenance provision for the Chiltern Railways fleet once it is finished being built.
The work in the region is expected to improve the punctuality and reliability of operators using the Chiltern main line, including CrossCountry and Chiltern Railways.
Dave Penney, Chiltern Railways’ managing director, said the Banbury work was an “essential investment” for the long-term reliability of the area’s railway, and praised its timely delivery.
“Through a modernisation of the signalling system, Chiltern Railways services can remain some of the most punctual in the country,” he added. “The 18-month project is now complete and I would like to thank all of our customers who have shown patience and understanding during the improvements, particularly during the recent nine day line closure between Leamington Spa and Bicester.”
A few minutes down south, works at Hinskey, near Oxford, to reduce flooding incidents are also progressing well, with around £18m being spent to make the railway more resilient. Services between Oxford and Didcot Parkway will be affected until 14 August as a result.
(Top image c. Elliott Brown)
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