The working hours on the Botley Road site will increase to 24/7 to make up for lost time after the discovery of an historic arch forced works to stop.

Network Rail has revealed that 24/7 working hours will kick in from September 2 (Saturday) after work was forced to temporarily stop in June.

The closure of Botley Road, which first started on April 11, is expected to last until October, and was put in place so an £161 million upgrade of Oxford station can take place.

READ MORE: Fears Oxford Botley Road works 'discovery' may cause delays

Oxford Mail: Botley Road sky viewBotley Road sky view (Image: Contributed)

Back in July, Philip Morton, project manager at Network Rail, and David Paull, stakeholder manager for Oxford station project, told the Oxford Mail the discovery of an historic arch meant they would be asking Oxford City Council to “extend the permitted working hours” and this put meeting the deadline for the timetable of the works in doubt.

The new work schedule will concentrate on safely removing the brick arch before work to divert the utilities below Botley Road can continue.

Mr Morton said: "Whilst we knew the arch was there, it’s much larger than our original ground surveys identified, which has added a unique layer of complexity to our ongoing work to upgrade of Oxford station and surrounding areas.

Oxford Mail: The historic archThe historic arch (Image: Network Rail)

“Due to its potential significance in supporting the bridge, removing the arch from beneath Botley Road is now our biggest challenge, but we’re addressing it as safely and efficiently as possible.”

READ MORE: Oxford : Plans for 1,800 homes could 'swallow up' villages

Mr Morton said workers would now concentrate on “installing piles to stabilise the bridge while we excavate the brickwork before we can continue to divert the utilities.”

Mr Morton said: “Going forward, we will be working day and night so we can gain back some of the time lost, with the majority of the noisy work planned to take place during the day, to minimise disruption for the local community.

“As ever, we appreciate everyone’s patience while we manage this unexpected challenge.”

Since August 14, the team on the site has been working from 7am until 7pm seven days a week but these hours, in consultation with the city and county council, have been extended to 24/7.
Oxford Mail: Plans for the worksPlans for the works (Image: Network Rail)

Mark Dodd of Oxford Archaeology, said: "The historic city of Oxford contains archaeological remains dating back to the prehistoric period, so there's always the potential to discover a bit of history beneath the ground.

“Owing to the existing road, the site itself wasn’t an ideal location for archaeology, so the best approach was for us to be on site whilst the works are underway.

“It’s likely the arch was used to help manage the groundwater owing to its low-lying position close to the river Thames and this is an excellent example of a Victorian engineering solution, as seen elsewhere throughout Britain at this time."

Work on the site also had to come to a sudden halt on July 20 (Thursday) when the area had to be evacuated due to the discovery of a WW11 era hand grenade within the work site, close by to the railway tracks.

Officers from British Transport Police attended the incident, alongside personnel from Explosives Ordinance Disposal.

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Ed specialises in writing political stories for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times. 

He joined in the team in February 2023, after completing a History undergraduate degree at the University of York and studying for his NCTJ diploma in London.

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