A £2 million project to strengthen and repair a 157-year-old tunnel in the West Midlands is underway.
Network Rail is working in Old Hill tunnel in Rowley Regis to repair brickwork, strengthen the structure of the tunnel, waterproof where required and repair the lining of the tunnel.
Old Hill tunnel was built in 1867 and takes 819 metres of the Stourbridge to Snow Hill line underneath Rowley Regis.
Working inside tunnels requires special precautions. Air quality must be monitored and, if necessary, temporary forced ventilation installed. In addition, due to the restricted space and lack of any storage areas beside the tracks, all materials, tools, lighting and access equipment must be brought in from one of the tunnel portals at the start of every work period and everything removed from the tunnel before services can recommence.
The length of Old Hill tunnel means that, to carry out the work, Network Rail will have to close the railway on six consecutive Sundays between 11 January and 15 February 2020.
As a result, there will be no train services to stations between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction from 10:30 on Saturdays through to 05:00 on Mondays between 11 January and 15 February 2020. Replacement bus services are being operated by West Midlands Railway.
Kathryn Berry, scheme project manager at Network Rail, said: “We appreciate the patience of passengers while we carry out these vital improvements to Old Hill tunnel.
“The work will mean fewer train delays on the Birmingham to Stourbridge line and make this Victorian-built structure fit for the 21st Century.”
Keen to inform passengers of the temporary arrangements, Richard Brooks, head of customer experience for West Midlands Railway, added: “Replacement bus services will be in place on each affected Sunday, calling at all stations between Birmingham Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction. Services between Stourbridge Town and Stourbridge Junction will run as normal.
“Trains between Stourbridge and Worcestershire will operate to an amended timetable and passengers are advised to check their journeys before travelling.”