Published: 29th July 2014
The second and third and fourth of seven line closures between Euston and Milton Keynes will be taking place this August. This is to allow Network Rail to upgrade the track, overhead wires and signalling in the Watford Junction area which has become more and more unreliable. The last time it was upgraded was in the early 1960s when it was electrified and after 50 years. Is worn out.
Because it was so old, this work was originally supposed to have been carried out in the West Coast Main Line (WCML) upgrade by Railtrack and then Network Rail a decade ago but was cancelled to save money. Despite this, Network Rail grandly announced that the upgrade had been completed, perhaps to give a political message before the 2005 election when it was known that the Government had lost faith in the railways.
Since the WCML upgrade was declared completed eight or so years ago, the amount of trains has doubled and they also go faster, except through Watford which still had the 1960s infrastructure limiting high speed operations.
The junctions either side of Watford Junction are used to switch trains between the fast and slow lines in time of train or track failure and are not often used. But because they are half a century old and the design features of that period, the linespeed does not allow 125mph running or even fast speeds over the crossovers when switching lines. The new crossovers will be easier to maintain and allow a higher line switching speeds and the overall linespeed which will be raised to 125mph.
The line between Watford Junction and London Euston will be closed on the following August weekends:
Saturday 9 August 2014 to Monday 11 August 2014
Saturday 16 August 2014 to Monday 18 August 2014
Saturday 23 August 2014 to Tuesday 26 August 2014
All trains which use the line between Euston, Clapham Junction and Milton Keynes will not operate meaning London Midland, London Overground, Southern and Virgin Trains will not be running as timetabled.
Network Rail (NR) will replace three junctions either side of Watford as well as renewing the signalling and overhead wire systems. The crossovers will be replaced with a higher speed track and infrastructure that is easier to maintain in the limited time available to NR’s engineers.
The work will, if it performs as planned, reduce disruptive maintenance and offer better reliability increasing punctuality. The new signalling between Kings Langley and Bushey will offer better operational flexibility and as a result, a faster return to a normal service after disruption.
The line will be closed between Hemel Hempstead and Euston and most London Midland trains will run between Northampton and Hemel Hempstead every 30 minutes.
Virgin services will run to and from Milton Keynes or Rugby to the north but they will be operating limited services between Birmingham International, Coventry and London Euston. These will be routed via leamington, Banbury and High Wycombe, but not stopping between Coventry and Euston.
A bus service will operate between Hemel Hempstead and Stanmore Hill Underground station calling at Apsley, Kings Langley and Watford Junction.
On Sunday August 10, the London Overground service between Watford Junction and Queens Park will not run being replaced by buses.
These will run between Watford Junction and Harrow & Wealdstone only to connect up with Underground services between Harrow & Wealdstone and Queens Park.
There will also not be any trains running between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey with more buses running on this route. Southern services will only operate between South Croydon and Shepherds Bush and not even to Willesden Junction High level.
The line reopens from 0630hrs from when there will be a limited train service between Euston and Hemel Hempstead until 1630hrs as there will only be one line open in each direction. Buses will still replace trains on the St Albans Abbey branch.
The arrangements for the first weekend blockage are pretty much repeated for the next two weekends. But if you are travelling, its best to check with the train operator you intend to use.