Network Rail has released a timelapse video showing work to reopen the Banbury to Lemaington Spa rail line following a major landslip at Harbury Tunnel.
Despite some early delays due to signalling problems at Birmingham New Street, trains between Banbury and Leamington are running on a full timetable for the first time today (Friday) since the line was closed on January 31.
The 05.15am Chiltern Railways service from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone was the first passenger service to travel through the area after the line reopened three weeks ahead of schedule following the movement of 350,000 tonnes of earth.
Mark Carne, network Rail’s chief executive, said “The reopening of the railway, three weeks ahead of schedule, is welcome news for passengers and freight operators. It is also a testament to the hard work of hundreds of people who have worked 24 hours a day to make it possible.
“Everything was done to reopen this essential line – which is relied upon by thousands of passengers every day and used to transport thousands of tonnes of freight – as safely and quickly as possible.
“I thank passengers and the residents of Harbury for their patience while we carried out this vital work. I can assure them that the ongoing repairs being made are long-term solutions which will significantly reduce the chances of similar incidents in the future.”
Rob Brighouse, managing director at Chiltern Railways, said: “The Chiltern Mainline is a vital link for both commuters and business travellers and we are delighted to restore direct services between London and the West Midlands.
“Thanks must be given to our partners at Network Rail, who have worked tirelessly, day and night, to make the area safe and to our passengers for their patience. “During the closure we introduced a reduced fare structure and we can announce an extension of this for both day and season tickets until the end of April.”
Andy Cooper, managing director of CrossCountry said: “Getting the line open again before the large numbers of people expected to travel this weekend to visit their family for Mother’s Day is great news for our customers. We are thankful to Network Rail’s engineers for their tremendous efforts in beating their earlier estimate of an Easter reopening, and especially to our customers for their patience and understanding while the work was completed.”
Harbury cutting has suffered from landslips since it was built more than 150 years ago. The long-term repairs to the cutting are expected to take several months.