West Coast Main Line closures scrapped after Network Rail review

The West Coast Main Line, near Milton Malsor
The West Coast Main Line, near Milton Malsor

Two planned long closures on the railway line serving Northampton have been scrapped after a “detailed review” revealed they were not necessary.

Network Rail had originally planned a 16 day closure of the West Coast Main Line at Watford in August 2014 and a seven day closure in February 2015, as part of an £81 million programme of works.

But following feedback from passengers and discussions with industry partners, it will instead carry out the work over three weekends in August and two weekends in February.

Network Rail says there will still be disruption for passengers, but less than if it had gone ahead with the original plan.

Dyan Crowther, Network Rail route managing director, said: “There is never a good time to close the railway and removing these two significant closures means we will have to carry out the work over five weekends which will still impact on journeys. However, the feedback from passengers suggested this was a preferred situation.

“We will now liaise with the train companies to plan for the work and to provide passengers with information in advance and during the work in order to minimise disruption.”

Patrick Verwer, London Midland managing director, said: “Our passengers who commute into London on a daily basis were extremely concerned about the impact of the initial blockade dates, and I am confident they will welcome this decision.”

Guy Dangerfield, from independent watchdog Passenger Focus said “Passengers will be enormously relieved that the West Coast route will not now be closed at Watford for days on end in August 2014 and February 2015.”

Network Rail says the number of trains using the West Coast main line has doubled in the last 15 years, increasing the pressure and wear and tear on the infrastructure.

During the work, all signalling between Kings Langley and Bushey will be renewed, and more than 15km of new track will be laid. There will be an upgrade of the overhead line equipment and platform 10 at Watford Junction will be modified to allow longer trains to be stabled.

The previously announced closures of the railway in the Watford area on May 3 to 5 this year; December 25 to 29 this year, and April 3 to 6 next year, are still planned to go ahead.