Network Rail has confirmed that the railway line between Leamington Spa and Banbury will reopen by Easter (Thursday 2 April).
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 since 31 January following a landslip near Harbury, a few miles south of Leamington Spa.
The huge landslip saw over 350,000 tonnes of earth threaten the railway line at this location 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.
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.”
Rob Brighouse, managing director of Chiltern Railways, said:
“We are fully supportive of the approach and it is absolutely right that the line should only be reopened when it is safe to do so. We are working in close partnership with Network Rail and doing our utmost to ensure that the impact on passengers is minimised.
“In the meantime, we have reduced fares so that West Midlands to London passengers only pay the equivalent of a Banbury to London fare and put in place a “step-straight-on” bus replacement service between Leamington and Banbury stations.”
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.”
A bus replacement service between Leamington Spa and Banbury will continue to be in use until the line reopens.