A Victorian tunnel on the Northampton loop off the West Coast main line is receiving attention to stop it flooding, which it does frequently.
Water leaks through the walls of the 140-year-old Crick tunnel, causing tracks to flood and forcing trains to run at reduced speed. Between 2012 and 2020, freight and passenger trains travelling between London and the Midlands were delayed by the tunnel flooding for a total of 15,000 minutes – that’s more than 10 days.
Now, following discussions between train operators and Network Rail, and while passenger numbers are low during this latest period of national lockdown, a year’s worth of overnight weekend work is being condensed into just five consecutive days, between Monday 15 and Friday 19 March.
Believed to be the longest full closure of the tunnel since it opened in 1881, completing the work in one go will save the taxpayer £7.5 million – doing the tunnel drainage work conventionally over consecutive weekend shifts would take a year and cost approximately £11 million, whereas carrying out the work all at once over a five-day period is estimated to cost £3. 5 million.
Network Rail’s route director for the southern part of the West Coast main line, James Dean, said: “This speedy upgrade of Crick tunnel shows how the rail industry is coming together to get the West Coast main line in the best possible shape for passengers when they can return once coronavirus travel restrictions are eased.
“This is all part of our commitment to build back better as the country emerges from the pandemic.
“However, as the line will need to close for the major upgrade, I’d urge anyone still making essential journeys to check National Rail Enquiries, so they know what to expect when they travel.”
Avanti West Coast trains will be diverted between Rugby and Milton Keynes with changes to the departure and arrival times at London Euston. Gus Dunster, executive director of operations and safety for Avanti West Coast, commented: “Working with industry partners, we have amended our timetable between Monday 15 and Friday 19 March to facilitate Network Rail’s work at Crick tunnel, while protecting our vital services for key workers.
“As a result, the departure and arrival times at London Euston have changed. If customers are making an essential journey during this time, we strongly recommend they check before they travel,