Cambrian railway line devastated by flooding set to reopen at last

Rail chiefs have revealed the scale of the work needed to re-open the Cambrian Line between Shrewsbury and Newtown after storm damage caused mayhem.

Images from the flooding and repairs to the Cambrian line
Images from the flooding and repairs to the Cambrian line

Transport for Wales is planning to resume some passenger services today, following track testing in the morning. A full level of rail service is due to start back from tomorrow.

Journeys will take around half an hour compared with around one hour by rail replacement bus.

Network Rail says engineers have worked 24/7 to reopen the line following flood damage caused by Storm Franklin in February.

Images from the flooding and repairs to the Cambrian line

The water washed away earth from beneath the track in 33 places over half a mile on the Newtown side of the Welshpool Railway Station – where the track runs alongside the Welshpool Bypass.

The stretch has been closed to allow vital repairs to take place following extensive flood damage caused on Monday, February 21.

Initially, it was thought just 12 areas of ballast (the stones that hold the railway sleepers in place) had been washed away but further investigation revealed 33 severely impacted locations across a half-mile stretch of railway.

The washouts happened after the River Severn flooded, with the water rising 3.9metres above the normal level - just 9cm lower than the highest ever recorded level. It took ten days for the river to fully recede before engineers could move in to repair the railway.

Following six weeks of 24/7 shifts, Network Rail engineers, working alongside contractors AmcoGiffen, have managed to restore the railway, ready for train services to resume on the first weekend of April.

Images from the flooding and repairs to the Cambrian line

The extensive repair work has included the removal of 3,000 tonnes of debris, 4,000 tonnes of new ballast being laid, three tamping shifts to realign and level the track, 800 metres of double track replaced, new hedgerows planted, clearing of 11 culverts and installation of new fencing and telecoms cables.

In March, Network Rail announced millions of pounds in emergency funding to further protect this section of the line.

Engineers are currently working on a resilience solution for this section of railway which will see rock armour installed along the embankment.

Rock armour is a proven to work resilience method which prevents the stones from washing away during extreme weather, which means the railway can reopen in days, rather than weeks.

Images from the flooding and repairs to the Cambrian line

Bill Kelly, route director for Network Rail Wales & Borders said: "It’s fantastic to be able to fully reopen the Cambrian line for passengers, after the scenes of absolute devastation left in the wake of Storm Franklin.

“I’d like to thank passengers, and the local community, who’ve shown incredible patience and support, throughout. I’d also like to pay tribute to everyone who’s worked so hard to repair the railway so quickly in such challenging conditions - it really has been an incredible effort.”

Martyn Brennan, Transport for Wales operations director, said: "We would like to thank our customers for their patience while this essential work has taken place and we look forward to returning to a full service on the Cambrian Line from Sunday.”

Claire Williams partnership development officer from the Cambrian Railway Partnership said: "We are delighted to see that the vital link for connectivity to Shrewsbury and beyond on the Cambrian Line has been resurrected in good time and in readiness for the high demand of services over the Easter holidays.

“We would like to thank our colleagues at Network Rail for their tremendous effort to reopen the line as soon as possible given the challenging conditions and devastation of the line outside Welshpool.”

Other resilience work on the Cambrian Line in recent years includes raising Black Bridge, near Machynlleth, away from a flood zone.

Before this innovative project was completed, the bridge had been closed 30 times in the last decade (ten times in 2020 alone) for emergency repairs caused by flood water.

Since completion of the work in 2021, the railway at this location has not succumb to flooding or needed to be closed due to bad weather.

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