Nuneham viaduct and some very unplanned disruption
08 June 2023
Disruption no matter how well planned is always a hot topic with rail passengers – and has been well publicised over the past 12 months with both extensive engineering works and industrial action across the network.
Some impacts on passengers however cannot be planned for – as we’ve seen recently with Nuneham viaduct in Oxfordshire making headlines.
The Nuneham viaduct forms part of the essential north-south artery route between Culham and Radley in Oxfordshire. It was found to have a range of unexpected serious structural issues, and images across the media showed cavernous cracks and the railway line subsiding.
Network Rail took immediate action and closed the line which impacted passengers and caused significant disruption. This is a key route for carrying passenger and freight services over the Thames and the repairs to the bridge were likely to be complex. Equally as challenging was how passengers could continue to make their day-to-day journeys without the railway. The solution in this case was rail replacement buses and coaches and for passengers to use alternative rail routes.
Replacing trains with buses has clear knock-on effects for passenger’s ability to plan and take their journeys. Taking into account extra time needed in case of traffic, pick up and drop off points, the timing of services, accessibility and space for luggage and prams to name a few. Indeed their expectations are even higher that information will be clear and accurate across all of the usual channels and locations.
Keeping a close eye on how the industry has responded as part of this unexpected event has been key in the past few weeks. With the end in sight and the viaduct due to reopen on 10 June – what’s our verdict on how the disruption’s been handled and how passengers have been kept informed and moving?
One of the impacts which we picked up was the size and suitability of replacement buses at certain times of the day – one size did not fit all! We checked and tested information and warnings on websites and journey planners regularly through the closure area for the quality and consistency of the passenger experience.
We’ve been in close contact with the affected train operators and Network Rail and are pleased that our feedback across all of the operations has been well received.
Despite the obvious challenges of dealing with an unexpected and prolonged emergency closure the industry has come together well to lay on a pretty seamless service between Didcot and Oxford (despite the traffic). So kudos to all involved and while it’s a good advert for what the rail industry can achieve in a crisis, passengers will undoubtedly be relieved when rail services are restored.