Network Rail has confirmed that the railway between Leamington Spa and Banbury will reopen on Friday 13 March - three weeks earlier than originally expected.
The key route has been closed since January 31 following a 350,000 tonne landslip near Harbury, between Banbury and Leamington.
The line was expected to remain closed until Easter but Network Rail has today, Wednesday, said passenger services will resume on Friday, March 13 - with overnight freight services potentially using the line again from as early as Monday.
Contractors have worked 24 hours a day to repair the landslip.
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.
“Having seen the scale of the challenge, I congratulate Network Rail’s engineers on reopening the line faster than expected.”
“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 said: “I am sure passengers well join with me in welcoming this news.
“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 £38 billion is being invested between 2014-19 to improve and maintain the nation’s railways.”
Rob Brighouse, managing director of Chiltern Railways, which operates passenger services along the line, 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.”
Andy Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry, said: “The early completion of the work is great news as we will again be able to provide through journeys by train for our long distance and local customers. We are grateful to Network Rail’s engineers for getting the line open again before the busy Easter holidays. The priority now is to rebuild our customers’ confidence in a reliable rail service, part of which will be the ongoing work to ensure such events are not repeated.”
A bus replacement service between Leamington Spa and Banbury will continue to be in use until Thursday, March 12. Passengers should check with their train operator or visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest information.
Network Rail will remain on site for several months after the railway reopens as work continues on the cutting and additional investigations of the surrounding area.
The section of railway which has not been used for the duration of the closure will be fully tested before reopening.
Discussions will also take place with local people regarding the final landscaping of the area around the cutting.
Network Rail has been carrying out stabilisation work after a smaller landslide elsewhere on the Harbury site on February 14 last year. This work was under way when the slope failed at 2.30pm on January 31. No one was injured when the landslide happened.