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West Coast blockade starts tomorrow at Watford

Network Rail is to start significant upgrade work this bank holiday weekend on one of the UK’s most intensively-used sections of rail infrastructure. The work is part of an £81m project to upgrade the railway around Watford, which has long been a problematic area.

The West Coast Main Line is closed between London Euston and Watford on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

The main contractors on site this weekend are AmeyColas and Siemens. Three signalling gantries, 30 metres in width and weighing 12 tonnes each, are being installed over six lines using a 40-tonne crane. On the track, engineers will begin to renew switches and crossings and add new amounts of ballast to the track.

Network Rail spokesman Anne-Marie Batson told RTM: “We’re also renewing five sets of points, including a full-depth ballast renewal for each one. AmeyColas will be delivering the trackwork, with Siemens providing the signalling support for the points’ renewals as well as undertaking works as part of their resignalling scheme.”

Network Rail had originally planned a 16-day closure in August 2014 and nine-day closure in February 2015. However, after negative feedback, this strategy was revised to eight weekend and bank holiday closures, resulting in less disruption overall. Working at quieter times of the year “would cause less disruption than the only other alternative of closing the line for 54 consecutive weekends”, Network Rail said.

As part of the main project, all signalling between Kings Langley and Bushey will be renewed and more than 15km of new track will be laid. Modifications will be made to the overhead line equipment to make it more reliable and Orphanage Road Bridge will be replaced to allow for future line speeds of 125mph.

Network Rail is also replacing three critical junctions to the north and south of Watford and renewing the signalling system in the area. It will also replace the track crossovers with track that is easier to maintain, reducing future disruption.

Dyan Crowther, route managing director for Network Rail, said: “The section of track at Watford is one of the most intensively used, high-speed sections in the UK and has seen tremendous growth in traffic and passengers over the last five years.

“There is never a good time to close the railway but this work is essential to maintain reliable train services for the millions of passengers who travel on this route every year.”

Virgin Trains and London Midland have advice on their websites for passengers affected by the closure.

The full timetable of closures is below:


Saturday 3 May 2014 to Monday 5 May 2014 (May Day bank holiday)

Saturday 9 August 2014 to Monday 11 August 2014

Saturday 16 August 2014 to Monday 18 August 2014

Saturday 23 August 2014 to Tuesday 26 August 2014 (includes summer bank holiday)

Wednesday 24 December 2014 to Monday 29 December 2014


Saturday 14 February 2015 to Monday 16 February 2015 (start of school half term)

Saturday 21 February 2015 to Monday 23 February 2015

Friday 3 April 2015 to Tuesday 7 April 2015 (Easter weekend)

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