Work to rebuild the railway at one of the worst landslips ever seen on the network is well underway at Botley in Hampshire.
A project has begun to completely rebuild 80metres of railway at the largest of three landslips in the area.
More than two kilometres of new road has had to be built to access the sites and more than 1,000 lorry movements will be needed to transport the 20,000 tons of new material needed to rebuild the line. A team of 100 engineers from Network Rail and contractor Osborne are working round the clock towards getting trains running again in mid-March.
Rail minister Stephen Hammond visited the team on site to see the scale of the damage. He said: “The work Network Rail has been carrying out to reopen the line around Botley by mid-March has been impressive. They undertook a massive engineering task just to prepare the site before they could start dealing with three separate landslips along one mile of track. Lessons are being learned from the extreme weather and I’ve asked Network Rail to examine how the network can be made more resilient in future.”
Commercial director for the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance, Sam McCarthy, said: “This is a huge project and we were pleased to be able to provide the transport minister with an opportunity to see first hand some of the extensive work being completed by our engineering teams.
“We are very proud of the work being done by our teams to restore this vital link for passengers. There is still a lot to be done before we can resume our services, but with work progressing well and on schedule, we expect to be able to reopen the line by mid March.
“We would like to thank passengers for their understanding while we continue this repair work. We will continue to operate a bus replacement service until the line reopens.”
The largest slip site near Botley saw an 80m long and 15m high length of embankment fail. When it was originally constructed in the 1840s, the engineers built the earthworks out of whatever material they could find locally, which was a mixture of clay, sand and silt. Persistent heavy rainfall during the wettest winter in 250 years caused the embankment to become unstable, ultimately suffering what engineers call a rotational failure, where the land to the south of the line raised up, as the embankment sunk down. It is now being completely dug out and replaced with new material, supported by a 100m wall of sheet piles which have been sunk into the ground along both sides and tied together with steel rods.
The aim is to return the line, which links Fareham with Eastleigh, to use in mid-March. In the meantime, Portsmouth to London Waterloo trains are being diverted, with buses serving stations from Fareham to Eastleigh.