£2m bill for landslip on railway line

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A MAJOR landslip near Falkirk that caused widespread rail chaos over the last two weeks cost more than £2 million to repair, Network Rail announced yesterday.

News of the bill for the largest single weather-related line repair this year came as the rail firm also confirmed that parts of the Aberdeen-Inverness line will be closed for another month following extensive storm damage.

Engineers are faced with damage from flooding and landslips at 90 sites on a 30-mile stretch between Forres and Keith, in Moray.

Meanwhile, repairs were completed to the landslip at Carmuirs, west of Falkirk, early on Monday, which had forced lengthy diversions for trains between Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. The frequency of daytime trains on ScotRail’s flagship Edinburgh-Glasgow Queen Street route were halved to half hourly, and some local services were suspended.

Twenty Network Rail engineers and contractors had worked round the clock since the landslip on 9 November, when 150 tonnes of debris cascaded down a 50ft high cutting and blocked tracks. The cutting has been stabilised, with wire gabion netting added to prevent further rock falls.

Stonework above the mouth of a twin tunnel under the Forth & Clyde canal, which also collapsed in the landslide, has been replaced with a new concrete facing.

There was no direct damage to the track, but significant signalling repairs were required.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail, the former Railtrack, said: "This was a very serious landslide, and happened at a strategically important site on the network.

"Our engineering teams have worked tirelessly to get services running as soon we can, despite the volume and complexity of repair work required."

The work cost more than twice as much as repairs to a landslide on the east coast main line in East Lothian last month, and to another near Pitlochry in Perthshire in August.

Meanwhile, Network Rail is facing huge problems in Moray following torrential rain over more than a week. The firm hopes to re-open a 12-mile section of line between Forres and Elgin on Saturday, but fears a 17-mile stretch between Elgin and Keith will take another four weeks to repair.

The foundations of six bridges have been damaged, being undermined by floodwater, leaving them potentially unsafe. They are being surveyed by divers to assess the extent of work required.

More than 20 culverts have collapsed or been damaged, with debris scattered over many areas of track. There have also been numerous landslides in deep cuttings and down the sides of high embankments.

Extensive repairs and testing will also be required to the semaphore-type signalling on the singe-track line.

Janette Anderson, the director of Network Rail in Scotland, said: "This has been, and will continue to be, a very difficult recovery operation for us.

"Although the water began to recede at our problem sites last Wednesday, we did not gain access to many areas to begin to assess the extent of the damage and subsequent repair work required until Friday because of extensive flooding remaining at many locations."

Mrs Anderson also warned that climate changes were likely to produce further disruption to the railways. She said: "It is clear that changing weather patterns, with more intense, heavier rainfall in winter months, has adversely affected stabilisation and led to an increase in instances of flooding and embankment slips throughout the network."

The blockages are just the latest across Scotland since July, when downpours paralysed much of the network.

ScotRail has warned that the 30 million that Network Rail plans to spend over the next three years on drainage improvements across Scotland will not be enough.

Network Rail is also developing improved weather forecasting, is monitoring flood-risk sites and is taking part in a study into the links between landslips and rainfall.