Network Rail goes back to the drawing board on controversial summer line shutdown

Network Rail has announced that it is reviewing plans to close the busy commuter line between Watford and Euston in a bid to slash the amount of time it is out of action.

The track was set to be off limits for more than two weeks in August this year under plans for major engineering works and the £81 million works could end up costing less thanks to the rethink.

Network Rail spokesman Kevin Groves said the review has been launched after feedback from customers and changes to the engineering work required.

“While it is likely that limited closures over weekends and bank holidays will be required to complete the project by Easter 2015, we are aiming to deliver the improvements without a full 16 day closure of the West Coast Main Line in August as was initially proposed,” he said.

“We are currently finalising details of the programme with our industry partners and plan to confirm details before the end of the month.”

The changes could see the cost of the project, which includes replacing 12 miles of track, signalling and overhead power cables, being reduced because compensation to train operators such as London Midland for not being able to run services will be ‘significantly less’.

Under the original plans the line was set to be closed for 26 days, with works booked in for the May Bank Holiday weekend, next Christmas along with February and April 2015. But the biggest block of work was scheduled for August.

London Midland, which had advised customers to avoid travelling altogether if possible during these periods, has a meeting scheduled with Network Rail bosses later this month.

Following this a clearer picture about the way forward - including compensation for passengers - should emerge. London Midland spokesman Lindsey Preece said: “The key think is obviously knowing the number of days and we haven’t got that.”