UK rail network battered again by severe storms

The south of England and the Cumbrian coast bore the most visible scars of the storms that battered the UK over Christmas and early 2014.

In the south, the most significant disruption was the severing of the line at Ockley (between Horsham and Dorking). Network Rail anticipates that the line will remain closed until February (RAIL 739).

“The most difficult challenge now is the landslip at Ockley, where more than 40 metres of the embankment has collapsed,” said NR Route Managing Director for Sussex Tim Robinson. “It is also in a very difficult location to access, so we estimate it will be at least a month before we are able to run a full service on that line.”

In the North West, severe weather on the Cumbrian Coast Line on January 3 caused “significant” damage at multiple locations, with sea defences and retaining walls washed away in several places between Sellafield and Maryport.

Some 120 yards of track was washed away at Flimby (north of Workington), while lineside equipment and 600 yards of ballast were washed away at Parton (north of Whitehaven).

At Kirkby-in-Furness, where lineside equipment was also damaged, so much water flooded the space occupied by the track in between the platforms that the station resembled a canal.

Braystones station (north of Sellafield) was also completely flooded, while debris had to be removed from the railway in multiple locations. The extent of the damage meant that the line had to be closed between Barrow and Carlisle, with Northern Rail forced to operate replacement bus services.

Temporary speed restrictions are in place on sections of the line, while Network Rail continues to monitor the new railway and equipment (the Cumbrian Coast Line did not fully re-open until January 13).

NR area director Martin Frobisher said that NR was sorry for the disruption caused to passengers. “The storm and subsequent flooding caused significant damage to the railway along the Cumbrian coast, but a huge amount of work has been completed in a very short amount of time so the line could re-open,” he said.

With more than 4,000 tonnes of rock needing to be transported to the area to rebuild the railway, as well as new track, signalling equipment and other infrastructure needed to safely run the railway, Frobisher said NR’s priority was to “get the line back up and running as quickly as possible, as thousands of people in Cumbria rely on the railway on a daily basis”.

He added: “It was a huge feat of engineering to rebuild these sections of railway, and the outcome has meant a return to normal services for passengers in the shortest amount of time possible.”

In Wales, the Cambrian Coast Line was hit with enormous waves, causing buckled railway lines, many tonnes of debris on the line, and major disruptions just outside Tywyn.

A landslip near Talerddig closed the line, while Arriva Trains Wales was forced to cancel some trains along that line and in south Wales, due to flooding. The Valleys line between Abercynon and Aberdare was also affected, after flooding at Penrhiwceiber.

  • This news article was originally featured in RAIL 740 on 22 January 2014

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