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Leamington Spa to Banbury line to reopen by Easter

Network Rail has confirmed that the railway line closed by the Harbury landslip will reopen by Easter.

The key route between Birmingham and London Marylebone and Birmingham, the Thames Valley, the south coast and the port of Southampton – used by more than 50 freight trains and 80 passenger trains a day – has been closed between Leamington Spa and Banbury  since 31 January.

The huge landslip saw over 350,000 tonnes of earth threaten the railway line and since then Network Rail has been working around the clock to assess and repair the landslip so that the line could be safely reopened as soon as possible.

So far over 100,000 tonnes of earth have been removed from site and sophisticated monitoring equipment installed to track the continuing movement of the slip.

harbury landslip mark carne visit

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “We’ve been working around the clock to safely reopen the railway as soon as possible and are now able to give passengers and freight operators confirmation that services between Leamington Spa and Banbury will restart by Easter.

“The line provides a vital link for more than 130 passenger and freight trains every day and our engineers are working tirelessly to make the landslip safe and make it possible to reopen the line within the next six weeks.

“This cutting has suffered from landslips since it was built in the 1840s and we are looking at what new engineering solutions are available to make it safer and less at risk to landslips in the future.”

Earlier this month Network Rail announced that planned works at Watford that would have required the closure of the West Coast Main Line had been postponed as they would have required services to be redirected onto the now-blocked Chiltern route.

Andy Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry, said: “Its good news that Network Rail will have the line reopened for the busy Easter holiday period. This disruption has already affected many thousands of our customers who travel along this line every day and, despite providing a fast connecting road service, this has not been the quality service they were expecting. It is vital that Network Rail uses this opportunity to minimise the possibility of such events occurring again.”

A spokesperson for Freightliner said: “Whilst we are pleased that Network Rail is making significant progress towards providing a long-term solution for the land condition at Harbury, the landslip has caused substantial disruption to freight services to the Midlands, north east and north west.

“Freightliner recognises the considerable efforts being provided by Network Rail to restore the route and looks forward to recommencing services as soon as possible.”

(Images courtesy of Network Rail)

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Sreevesjc   20/02/2015 at 15:04

The absence or inadequacy of diversionary routes culled in the 1960s and 1970s is brought into sharp focus again as it was at Dawlish. This time its a gap of just 6 miles between Long Marston and Stratford upon Avon and nearly all of the trackbed exists. It’s been on Network Rail’s aspiration list for some time and the subject of numerous studies. Such a link would be/would have been very useful, not just on the occasion of infrastructure catastrophe but also for when engineering works are needed such as electrification.

Paul H   22/02/2015 at 12:09

At least in this case an alternative route between Oxford and the West Midlands is already being developed in the shape of East-West Rail via Bicester and Bletchley (to the WCML) with reasonable capacity, speed potential and gauge clearance. The Cotswold and Stratford route would need a lot more spending on it to turn it into an effective main line. A far more worrying issue is the Didcot-Oxford stretch that has never really had an effective nearby alternative and is subject to regular flooding. Even under wartime pressure it was never fully quadrupled and there seem to be few serious plans to significantly enhance it.

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