Infrastructure Network Rail

Chiltern line reopens following Harbury landslip

Well done to Network Rail for reopening the London-Birmingham route through Harbury Cutting following a landslip in late January. It disrupted over 130 daily Chiltern, CrossCountry and freight services as 350,000 tonnes of spoil threatened to engulf the railway.

Over the intervening days, NR has removed around 400,000 tonnes of spoil to create more stable banks. This is not the first time such work has been done since the line opened in 1852. Perhaps the main difference is that when the cutting was first excavated, it was done chiefly by human muscle, today NR used a fleet of diggers and dumpers to lift and remove the offending spoil.

The work has changed the slope of the cutting side from up to 35 degrees to 17 degrees at its shallowest. This, combined with flat berms created within the slope, should do much provide a more stable structure and prevent future slips.

Network Rail has also improved drainage with a crest drain installed at the top of the slope to better control water flow, once again bringing extra stability.

This timelapse footage shows the fleet from contractor Murphy hard at work day and night to remove material and provide a more stable slope. NETWORK RAIL.

N Briggs courtesy Warwick Museum via Harbury gwrhc94

Contrast NR’s footage with this photograph from 1884 when the Great Western Railway was widening the cutting as it attempted to increase ground stability. This view also serves to show the difference between the permanent way tracks in the foreground and the temporary track on which the locomotive and its rake of spoil wagons are standing. N BRIGGS COURTESY WARWICK MUSEUM VIA WARWICKSHIRERAILWAYS.COM

 Network Rail Harbury Cutting BD0Q1491v1This view shows Harbury Cutting on both side of the short tunnel on February 1 2015. NETWORK RAIL.

By Philip Haigh

Freelance railway writer, former deputy editor at RAIL magazine - news, views and analysis of today's railway.

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