Millions of rail journeys will be disrupted over the next seven weeks as a vital railway line in Oxfordshire is closed due to a wobbly bridge.
The main line connecting the Midlands and northern England with the South Coast has been closed at Nuneham Viaduct. The bridge over the Thames, a few miles south of Oxford, needed urgent repair because of “a lot of structural displacement”.
The line connecting Oxford with Didcot and Reading also serves passengers traveling from the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire to London.
Engineers spent the weekend inspecting the structure and on Easter Monday morning, Network Rail announced: “Disruption between Reading and Oxford is expected until at least late Wednesday. , May 31.”
IN a video made beforeNicky Hughes, Network Rail Western’s communications director, said: “We sincerely apologize to passengers and freight forwarders as we have had to close this important stretch of service between Didcot and Oxford.
“That’s because the bridge you can see behind me is starting to move and it’s moving to the point where we don’t think it’s safe to cross.
“We have been monitoring this bridge for several months now and we have taken measures to try to make the foundation of the bridge safer, but unfortunately, those measures do not seem to work. . And of course, we also had a significant amount of rain last month.
“At the end of last week we saw a lot of movement of the structure.
“Because the construction is not safe, passenger and cargo ships cannot pass. That’s why we had to shut it down.”
When the closures first hit, it put pressure on an alternative route from Oxford to London, which served Marylebone Station in the capital on a separate route through Chilterns. Thousands of passengers scheduled to travel on GWR’s Oxford-Reading-London Paddington routes have changed to the Marylebone service.
This will now likely continue until June.
For CrossCountry passengers, National Rail said: “Trains will be modified to run in two parts; between Bournemouth and Didcot Parkway and between Oxford and Manchester Piccadilly.
“Limited alternative road transport is operating between Didcot Parkway and Oxford.
“Customers traveling between Bournemouth/Reading and Banbury/Birmingham/Manchester should go through London or Bristol stations. This is due to road traffic restrictions at Didcot Parkway.”
The journey is likely to be extended by many miles and several hours.
Paul Clifton, BBC South’s transport correspondent, tweeted: “Extremely annoying for passengers on @CrossCountryUK and puts rail freight in an intolerable situation: more trucks on the A34.”