As most people prepare for the Christmas break – almost the one day of the year when everything is closed and everyone has a holiday – some 20,500 Network Rail engineering staff are about to work on more than 400 projects across the UK over the festive period.
The upgrades they will be working on form part of a record £48 billion investment to expand and modernise the railway network over the next five years.
Network Rail takes advantage of the railway being closed for two days on Christmas and Boxing Day to get work done that might take weeks or months if undertaken in single-shift night-time or weekend working. And if the two days can be extended to four, then an immense amount of work can be completed.
In 2019, £111 million of work will be delivered over the Christmas period. Most will be completed without disrupting passenger or freight traffic, but the organisers of some longer jobs will need to make alternative arrangements for passengers to complete their journeys.
As the work was about to start, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “These works across the country show our renewed commitment to improving the day-to-day passenger experience.
“While any disruption is regrettable, this is an important investment which will deliver more frequent services and better connections.
“As ever, we are incredibly thankful to all those working over the Christmas period to deliver these vital upgrades.”
Amongst the works being undertaken over Christmas 2019 are:
- Multiple major upgrade works at London King’s Cross, including tunnel and structure work, drainage inspection and upgrading overhead line equipment, to improve capacity, reliability and operational flexibility. The majority of these works will take place over Christmas Day and Boxing Day, although train operators will have limited access into King’s Cross at the start of service on Friday 27 December – they will be running a reduced timetable until 13:00.
- Track renewals, switches and crossings and overhead line works between London Paddington and Slough. This will mean no trains from London Paddington between 24-27 December, and a reduced timetable between 28-31 December. Strike action on SWR will also mean that services in and out of Paddington will be busier than normal, with passengers likely to use GWR as an alternative.
- Engineering work between Ash and Gatwick Airport will mean there are no GWR services to Gatwick Airport between 27-30 December.
- From 27 December – 1 January there will be no service between Bristol Parkway and Cardiff as electrification to Cardiff is completed.
- Switches and crossings renewal works at Ashford International to improve track quality and reduce delays caused by track faults. This means Southeastern High Speed and Eurostar services will not stop at Ashford International between 26-29 December. Southeastern Mainline services will run but some will be subject to change.
- Re-railing and track maintenance work between London Liverpool Street and Hackney Downs to improve service reliability. On 26 December Stansted Airport services will start and terminate at Tottenham Hale. Greater Anglia and Arriva Rail London services will run between 27-29 December but will divert around the works on the fast lines.