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New underpasses on Chiltern main line

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Oxfordshire County Council has released a time-lapse video of how two new railway underpasses were installed on the Chiltern main line during a 100-hour window over the Easter period.

After three years of planning, teams from Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council and Network Rail fitted the two new underpasses during a 100-hour window. If the project had not met its deadline, the organisations would have had to wait another five to 10 years for the next opportunity to carry out to work, due to the heavy demands on the Network Rail calendar.

Owen Jenkins, Oxfordshire County Council’s director of growth and economy, said: “This successful operation was due to the extraordinary cooperation between the councils and Network Rail and its contractors. It is a testament to the hard work over the four days when the underbridges were put in place, as well as the high level of planning and collaborative work in the three years beforehand, covering the conception, design and pre-construction phases.”

Video released by Oxfordshire County Council of work that took place over Easter 2021.

The underbridges were inserted underneath the Marylebone/Aynho line north-west of Bicester between 2 – 5 April, during the East bank holiday weekend. The structures had been built off-site between October 2020 and March 2021, ready to be installed.

The railway line was closed to allow for 21,000 tonnes of earth to be moved to make way for the underpasses. The teams removed and replaced 400 metres of railway track, and then drove the two new underpasses under the railway bridge with a huge transporter.

Dave Penney, Network Rail.

Dave Penney, Network Rail’s Central route director, said: “This £12.3 million investment in Bicester to create two new routes under the railway will not only benefit the flow of people and traffic, but also help both council’s regeneration vision. It’s a great example of how the rail industry can work in partnership with local authorities to unlock opportunities and growth for communities.”

The new structures will connect areas of the garden town, which were previously cut off from each other by the railway line and help open up the Eco-Town area of Bicester, including enabling the creation of up to 6,000 new homes and new community and recreational facilities. The steel underbridge will accommodate the planned realignment of the A4095, while the underpass will connect the new development for cyclists and pedestrians.

The project, which was on time and on budget while sticking to a strict COVID-19 risk strategy, provides upgraded rail track which will improve future journeys between London Marylebone and the Midlands. The work also involved the county council’s specialist consultant Stantec, Network Rail’s framework contractor Story Ltd and Homes England.

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