Longest tunnel closure since Victorian Times complete to improve journey times

Credit: Network Rail

Work, lasting for 2 weeks, on a Victorian railway tunnel is now complete and will improve journey times for passengers on the West Coast Main Line.

Kilsby Tunnel, near Daventry, reopened on Monday after major upgrades to track and drainage.

The two week closure is thought to be the tunnels longest closure since it opened in 1837.

Because of the tunnels age, water leaked through the walls and caused the tunnel to flood, and the track condition to degrade.

Now the waterproofing is complete, trains can now run at linespeed of 110mph once again, after the TSR (Temporary Speed Restriction) was lifted.

The work will save Avanti West Coast services a total of 82 minutes in delays every day.

James Dean, Network Rail’s West Coast Mainline South director, said: “Bringing Kilsby tunnel up to modern standards will make a huge difference for passenger and freight trains on the economically important West Coast main line. In normal times it would have been impossible to close this entire section of railway for an upgrade of this scope and scale. I’d like to pay a huge credit to our train operators and industry colleagues for enabling us to carry out this work at short notice and get the railway in the best possible shape as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Kilsby tunnel
Credit: Network Rail

The project saw:

  • 1.3km of track replaced
  • 2,458 new concrete sleepers laid
  • 7,700 tonnes of railway foundation stone (ballast) laid
  • 745 metres of new drainage created
  • A total of 23,870 hours worked on the project

Gus Dunster, executive director of operations at Avanti West Coast, said “We are pleased to have played an important role in giving Network Rail access to the railway between Rugby and Milton Keynes – a notoriously difficult section to maintain due to the number of trains that use it every day.

“This scale of work would usually take months of careful planning but working together with industry colleagues we were able to do this in a matter of days because of our reduced timetable and alliance with Network Rail. At the same time, we were able to protect our vital services for key workers, those making essential journeys and enable works to this treasured landmark to take place.

“It’s a great achievement in unprecedented circumstances and we would like to thank all of those involved for making this happen, and for the patience of everyone who has travelled with us over the last two weeks. The works will deliver a long-term benefit – improving reliability for millions of customers across the West Coast Main Line when we look forward to welcoming them back in the future.”

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  1. Perhaps the tunnel on the West Coast Main Line has seen floodings many times and the railway tracks suffer the worst which is why it needs sorting out.


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