WEEKS of travel disruption lie ahead after a landslide on a main London-bound train line near Leamington.
Tons of soil and rock slipped onto the Chiltern main line near Harbury at around 3pm on Saturday afternoon (January 31), following heavy rain.
And Network Rail bosses today (Tuesday) revealed the line will be closed between Leamington and Banbury for several weeks while work takes place, with replacement bus services running between the two stations adding around 90 minutes onto journey times.
Network Rail engineers are assessing the landslide, which is still moving, to determine the scale of the problem using remote sensing techniques. And chiefs insist work will not begin until it is safe to do so.
Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said all of the company’s resources had been diverted towards what he described as a ‘massive incident’.
He said: “Our safety precautions ensured the railway was shut before there was any risk to passengers. Looking forward, our focus is on making sure the site is safe before our engineers move any of the affected earthworks.
“We know just how important this key route between Birmingham and London is, for both passengers and freight. This is a very deep cutting built back in Brunel’s days which we have been repairing for some time. I can assure passengers whose journeys are being disrupted that we will do our utmost to restore their services as soon as possible. However, it may take several weeks to stabilise it before we can start some services.”
Chiltern Railways said 350,000 tonnes of earth and stone needs to be excavated from the site requiring around 20,000 lorry loads of earth being removed from the site.
A smaller landslide happened on the same section of track almost exactly a year ago and workers were stabilising it when the bigger landslide happened, though no-one was injured.
Network Rail has suggested commuters drive south to Banbury while passengers travelling towards Birmingham are being advised to use Warwick Parkway.
The company said it will be working closely with the train operators on alternative services for the next few weeks.