The recent warm weather and the reduction in train services due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) has meant that this is an ideal time for Network Rail to sort out some of the more troublesome earthworks around the railway network.
That may be coincidence, as much of the work was planned some time ago. But drier ground conditions are certainly making the work less onerous.
The latest area to be tackled is in the Templecombe area in Somerset, between Yeovil Junction and Gillingham in Dorset, as engineers work on a cutting that suffered severe damage last winter.
This section of railway will be closed for nine days between 13 and 21 June as engineers remove thousands of tonnes of earth left by a landslip. The work, which will be carried out by framework contractor Osborne, is vital after the damage caused by heavy rain during ‘Storm Katie’ back in December 2019 meant that Network Rail had to impose temporary speed restrictions on trains passing through the area.
The closure will allow Network Rail to build a retaining wall to protect the line and to remove the speed restrictions. Additionally, the opportunity will be used to carry out general maintenance in the area and to refurbish some of the stations along the route.
During the work, no South Western Railway (SWR) services will run between Yeovil Junction and Gillingham (Dorset). Trains between Exeter St David and Salisbury will be diverted via Westbury. There will be a shuttle train between Salisbury and Gillingham and a bus replacement service between Gillingham and Templecombe.
Network Rail route director for Wessex Mark Killick said: “I want to say sorry to passengers needing to travel during the works.
“Once complete, we will be able to remove two speed restrictions to provide improved journeys for passengers, as well as protecting the area from future landslips.”
Sean Hebden, framework lead for Osborne, said: “Our teams have been working extremely hard in the lead up to this important railway closure to ensure our works are completed as planned.
“We’re aware of the disruption this closure will cause to passengers and will be working 24/7 to ensure we make the most of the opportunity to support the future safe and timely passage of trains.”
Further strengthening works to other areas of the cutting at Templecombe will take place between the end of June and September.