Train bosses fear the crumbling Oxfordshire rail bridge will be out of action for a considerable time – as it’s revealed crucial repair works failed after years of investigations. 

The Nuneham Viaduct between Culham and Radley in Oxfordshire shut suddenly on April 3 over concerns that it was sinking.

It is now due to be closed until June 10.

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The bridge is on the line that links Oxford and London Paddington, with travellers currently being forced to use rail replacement buses that add around 45 minutes onto the journey time.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The viaduct, like other rail infrastructure, undergoes regular inspections, including with divers below the water every three years.

“Manual inspections have been carried out at the viaduct every three months since 2021, with full inspections of the stability of the southern bridge support structure in 2019 and 2022.

“These inspections led to a planned low intrusive ground stabilisation scheme in March 2023.  

“Unfortunately, these interventions in March 2023 were not successful, resulting in the closure of the line once the condition of the viaduct rapidly and unexpectedly deteriorated.”

In January this year, Network Rail changed all manual inspections of the bridge to virtual ones.

The rail company imposed speed limits on trains crossing the bridge in recent months while the stabilisation work was carried out.

Network Rail has insisted that a lack of funding was not the reason that the work was not done sooner.

Oxford Mail:

In a statement released to the Oxford Mail, a Network Rail spokeman said: “Network Rail spends £1.3bn a year in the Wales and Western region on the operation, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure.

“The mitigations taking place since April 4, in Nuneham, are due to a significant, rapid deterioration of the structure that meant high-level intervention was necessary.”

When asked if there was ever a risk to public safety, the company spokesperson continued: “We routinely monitor, inspect, maintain and renew our structures across the country; and the safety of our passengers, contractors and staff is always our primary focus.

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“When we judged Nuneham viaduct was not safe to continue running trains across it, we closed the bridge so we could do this detailed repair work.”

Network Rail has apologised to travellers affected by the viaduct closure and has insisted that engineers are working to fix the damage as soon as possible.

Stuart Calvert, Network Rail’s capital delivery director, said: “Our teams have been working 24/7 since the line has been closed to determine how best to repair the structure so that we can run trains across the viaduct safely once again. 

“We can now confirm that we’re working towards a reopening date of Saturday 10 June and will be replacing the old southern support structure in order to start running trains safely again. 

“We are sorry for the disruption this has caused for passengers and advise them to continue to check before they travel.”