The land, which is privately owned and measures about 14,000m2, has moved by nearly a metre in the last eight weeks and has created a scar in the cutting five metres high, posing a risk to the safe operation of the railway. To temporarily mitigate the risk, all the lineside equipment has been diverted and a stringent monitoring regime put in place.
Network Rail Western route asset management director Mike Gallop: “We need to stabilise the cutting immediately to protect the railway in the long-term, otherwise we could risk the line being shut from a potential land slip. This could disrupt the journeys of thousands of passengers and cost the industry money that could otherwise be spent to help grow the railway.
“Although the emergency work is in advance of receiving formal planning permission, we have been working very closely with all the relevant stakeholders. The feedback and support we have received from Cotswold District Council, Environment Agency, Natural England, Cotswold Conservation Board and the Forestry Commission have been useful and vital to our plans. We hope to achieve similar support from the wider community so that we can carry out this work swiftly.”
Approximately 80,000t of earth will be removed from the cutting to create a safe gradient that will prevent the land from moving, thus stabilising the cutting for the long-term. As part of this work, all the trees on the affected land will be removed but Network Rail plans to work closely with the landowner, Harrowby Estates, and the local authorities to replant the land with native tree species that are in keeping with the appearance of the area of outstanding natural beauty. A full ecological survey has also been carried out with the aim to avoid endangering protected species whilst work is being carried out.