Landslip set to cause more railway misery

Chiltern Railways landslip
Chiltern Railways landslip

Commuters travelling between Leamington Spa and Banbury railway stations still face up to seven or eight weeks of delays following a dramatic landslip, it is feared.

Services between the two stations have had to be cancelled and replaced with a bus service following the incident near the Harbury Tunnel on January 31.

Network Rail engineers are currently working to fix the line as soon as possible, but it is believed railway services could not be running on the line until at least Easter.

Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, who also represents Kineton, paid a visit to the site last week to see for himself the work that has to be done.

Mr Wright, who was accompanied by Richard Parry-Jones, chairman of Network Rail and Karl Budge, Network Rail’s route delivery director, was taken to a viewing platform to see the scale of the work taking place.

He said: “It is important the line is opened as quickly as possible, but it is also important to establish the cause of the landslip, and to ensure the problem is rectified for such an important and busy route.”

Chilter Railways – which has replaced rail services with a ‘step-straight-on’ bus service to take passengers from Banbury to Leamington Spa for connections further north – has said that despite the problems there has been positive feedback from travellers. Graham Cross, director at Chiltern Railways, said: “We have introduced a longer-term timetable which has been in use since Monday and so far it has been running well.

“On the whole, we have had positive feedback about the fast ‘step-straight-on’ bus service and are doing our utmost, working closely with Network Rail, to reopen the line as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Chiltern staff have been on hand to direct passengers to buses and one said: “Last week it was absolutely mental, but since then it has slowed down and we have a surplus of coaches available if we need one quickly. The main problem at the moment is the parking. People are parking their cars near to the station and still having to get a bus to either Leamington or Banbury.

“There are even some passengers who aren’t aware of the disruptions until they get to the station.”

The parking issues are a further blow for residents living near the railway station in Grimsbury, with a campaign to highlight the problem of commuters using the streets as car parks recently launched by Grimsbury Community Association and county councillor Mike Beal. Many travellers, meanwhile, are coming to terms with the unexpected changes to service.

Paula Marnell was travelling from Oxford to her home in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Despite not being aware of the landslip, she was happy with her experience of using the reduced service .

She said: “It was only when I booked my railway ticket online that I had an email come straight back to alert me of the disruption. Fortunately I did not have that far to go but everything is well organised. There were lots of buses to take passengers from Leamington Spa to Banbury so it hasn’t been too big a problem.”

Network Rail engineers on the site of the landslip are using remote sensing techniques to assess the area, with remedial work set to be carried out as soon as it is safe to do so.

Network Rail spokesman Jon Crampton said yesterday (Wednesday) they could not confirm exactly when the line will reopen, but added it will be closed for ‘several weeks’.