The railway line between Leamington Spa and Banbury – closed following last month’s Harbury landslide – will reopen by Easter (Thursday 2 April), Network Rail has said.
The route between Birmingham and London Marylebone – used by more than 50 freight trains and 80 passenger trains a day – has been shut since 31 January following a landslip south of Leamington Spa, in the cutting around the Harbury tunnel.
Network Rail and contractor J Murphy has been working to remove over 350,000 tonnes of earth and rock that have blocked the track.
So far over 100,000 tonnes of earth have been removed from site, with monitoring equipment installed to track the continuing movement of the slip, Network Rail said.
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “We’ve been working around the clock to safely reopen the railway as soon as possible and are now able to give passengers and freight operators confirmation that services between Leamington Spa and Banbury will restart by Easter.
“The line provides a vital link for more than 130 passenger and freight trains every day and our engineers are working tirelessly to make the landslip safe and make it possible to reopen the line within the next six weeks.
“This cutting has suffered from landslips since it was built in the 1840s and we are looking at what new engineering solutions are available to make it safer and less at risk to landslips in the future.”
Rob Brighouse, managing director of Chiltern Railways, said: “We are fully supportive of the approach and it is absolutely right that the line should only be reopened when it is safe to do so. We are working in close partnership with Network Rail and doing our utmost to ensure that the impact on passengers is minimised.
“In the meantime, we have reduced fares so that West Midlands to London passengers only pay the equivalent of a Banbury to London fare and put in place a “step-straight-on” bus replacement service between Leamington and Banbury stations.”
Network Rail said it would provide a further update regarding the landslip within the next two weeks.