THE RAIL line between Leamington and Banbury is set to re-open next week.
It has been closed since the end of January when a landslide dumped 350 tonnes of earth onto the tracks near Harbury following heavy rain.
Network Rail has worked round the clock to repair clear the earth and trains are set to start running again on Friday March 13 – three weeks earlier than first anticipated.
The key route between Birmingham and London Marylebone and Birmingham, the Thames Valley, south coast and the port of Southampton is used by 130 passenger and freight trains a day.
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Thousands of passengers, and thousands of tonnes of freight, rely on this vital route every day. We have been working around the clock and are able to reopen the railway three weeks ahead of the original estimate.
“Harbury cutting has suffered from landslips for more than 150 years. We have secured the cutting and made it safe and will carry out long term repairs which will significantly reduce the chances of similar incidents in the future.
“I would like to thank passengers and the residents of Harbury for their ongoing patience while we fix the landslip and carry out further repairs ahead of the reopening.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin welcomed the news.
He added: “Having seen the scale of the challenge, I congratulate Network Rail’s engineers on reopening the line faster than expected. There is, of course, a longer term task in trying to make sure this sort of disruption does not happen in future.
“The impact this landslip shows the importance of making our railways fit for the 21st Century. That is why, as part of our long-term economic plan, more than £38billion is being invested between 2014-19 to improve and maintain the nation’s railways.”
Rob Brighouse, managing director of Chiltern Railways, was equally pleased.
He said: “Every working day over 10,000 journeys are made with Chiltern Railways between the West Midlands and London, so we applaud the tireless work undertaken by our partner, Network Rail, that has resulted in an early reopening date.
“The Chiltern Mainline is a vital link for both commuters and business travellers and while our step-straight-on replacement bus service has worked well, the restoration of direct trains between London Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street will be welcomed by our customers.”
Passengers are currently being bused from Leamington to Banbury.