Aerial view of Nuneham viaduct, via Network Rail

Nuneham viaduct repair works result in major disruptions

Repair works are currently underway on the Nuneham viaduct in Oxfordshire, following safety concerns after structure degradation had been identified, resulting in a closure of the railway between Didcot Parkway and Oxford, scheduled to reopen in early June

Network Rail engineers have been working to repair the structure following the line closure that has resulted from monitoring equipment detecting increasingly significant movements of the viaduct, despite prior stabilisation works in recent weeks. This structure has been monitored since 2018, seeing the installation of extra equipment earlier this year.

The viaduct itself undergoes regular maintenance and inspection work, seeing a regular schedule of manual inspections being delivered every three months since 2021, sandwiched between full inspections of the stability of the southern bridge support structure in 2019 and 2022. These inspections have collectively led to a planned low intrusive ground stabilisation scheme from March 2023.

The March works were ultimately unsuccessful, meaning a necessary closure to the line following the unexpected deteriorating conditions of the structure. Whilst the ultimate cause of the rapid decline of the condition is currently unknown, engineers will soon have a better chance to assess the reasons once the old support has been successfully removed.

The crack engineering teams are currently working to replace the southern support, which will futureproof the structure and afford both passenger and freight trains to run again between Didcot Parkway and Oxford by Saturday 10th June. These replacement works are uniquely difficult due to the ground conditions at the site, including the geographical placement being in close proximity to the River Thames and the heavy clay soil in which the new support will need to be secured.

Stuart Calvert, Network Rail’s capital delivery director, said:

 “Our teams have been working 24/7 since the line has been closed to determine how best to repair the structure so that we can run trains across the viaduct safely once again.

“We can now confirm that we’re working towards a reopening date of Saturday 10th June and will be replacing the old southern support structure in order to start running trains safely again.

“We are sorry for the disruption this has caused for passengers and advise them to continue to check before they travel.”

To combat the resulting disruptions to passenger services, Network Rail has partnered with rail industry conglomerates including GWR, CrossCountry, Chiltern Railways to implement a revised timetable for the duration of the line closure.

Huw Margetts, CrossCountry’s regional director, said:

“We’re sorry that passengers’ journeys will be disrupted until early June while Network Rail carries out this urgent work. The plans we introduced to help people keep travelling have worked well, and we will work closely with our industry partners to ensure this continues until the line reopens. Until then, we encourage anyone travelling to check their journey carefully before departing or visit our website for further information.” 

Mark Hopwood, GWR’s managing director, said:

“It is very disappointing to hear this key route will be out of action for some considerable time, but it's important Network Rail are given the time to make the necessary repairs.  

“We at GWR are working hard with our colleagues at CrossCountry and Chiltern to ensure we can give passengers as many journey options as possible and will continue to see what more we can do over the coming weeks to improve that situation.”

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