Despite the most recent changes to government guidance, many people will still travel to see family and loved ones by train tis Christmas.
Network Rail will also, as usual, be taking advantage of the traditional Christmas shutdown to undertake some of its most important railway maintenance and renewals work of the year.
While 95% of the network will be running as usual over the Christmas and New Year period, essential engineering work will take place at key locations to improve train reliability for passengers on several routes and boost connectivity between England and Scotland on the East Coast Main Line.
Passengers are therefore advised to check before they travel, to make sure that their trains are running as normal.
Over £2.8 billion has already been invested to improve the rail network during the pandemic when passenger numbers were lower, to minimise disruption while still keeping communities connected. Whilst many Christmas works have been postponed, some are necessary and will need to go ahead. However, all efforts have been made to organise replacement transport in the form of buses and coaches so people can still reach their final destination safely.
Network Rail’s chief executive, Andrew Haines, said: “Our frontline workers have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to maintain and upgrade the railway for those who need it and this festive period will be no different, with thousands of workers out delivering significant improvements across our infrastructure.
“It is vital that we drive improved rail performance through targeted investment work so that the railway can continue to play its part in Britain building back better from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The major upgrade works taking place over the Christmas and New Year period include:
East Coast main line (London King’s Cross)
Between Christmas Day and Wednesday 30 December (inclusive), Network Rail teams will be reconstructing, strengthening and diverting Camden Sewer, which runs beneath the railway just outside King’s Cross. This complex part of the project, which involves lifting a large section of all the tracks that serve the station, can only be carried out safely when there are no trains running in the area for six days.
New overhead line equipment will also be installed, as well as work to renew some of the tracks.
Trains on the East Coast main line will also be disrupted later in January, as work to build a new section of railway at Werrington, north of Peterborough, is taking place from Saturday 16 to Sunday 24 January 2021. A new tunnel will allow slower freight services to dive under the East Coast main line instead of having to cross over it and block the main line while they do so.
Three of the East Coast main line tracks will be removed and the concrete box structure, which will carry the new lines, will be pushed into place. During this time, there will be limited services on the East Coast Main Line between Grantham and Peterborough.
Midland main line
Between Christmas Day and Sunday, 27 December, Network Rail teams will carry out work to remove equipment which is no longer needed from the tracks between Wellingborough and Kettering. Over 300 units will be removed, reducing the likelihood of track faults.
The work will also see a disused building next to the railway demolished. The building is near overhead line equipment and removing it will make it safer and easier for workers to carry out inspections of the electric wires.
West Coast main line
From Thursday 24 until Sunday 27 December, teams will carry out vital work on the railway to improve both passenger and freight services on the West Coast main line. This will include:
- Ongoing work to upgrade Birmingham New Street station’s signals;
- Work to improve the overhead lines near Watford, Liverpool and Crewe;
- A bridge rebuilding project in Stafford;
- Track upgrades in Euston, Aylesbury, Preston and Manchester.
Bristol Temple Meads
Remodelling and roof repair work at Bristol Temple Meads station will see amended timetables in operation from London Paddington, with some trains at peak times not running at all between 28 December and 1 January. From 28 December until 11 January, timetables will be amended because Platforms 3-6 at Bristol Temple Meads will be out of use.
London Waterloo and Wessex
Between Friday 25 December 2020 and Monday 4 January 2021, engineers will carry out a major programme of work between Clapham Junction and Waterloo, where Platforms 12-20 will be closed. A reduced timetable will be in place between Waterloo and Clapham Junction, and a reduced service between Woking, Basingstoke, Guildford, Portsmouth, Southampton, Weymouth and Salisbury.
Sections of track and switches and crossings will be upgraded at Nine Elms Junction. Resignalling work, vegetation clearance and track and bridge inspections will also take place in the area to take advantage of the lower numbers of trains running.
On the same dates, the line between Basingstoke and Salisbury will be closed while engineers strengthen Millway Road bridge in Andover and clear vegetation between Whitchurch and Andover.
Switches and crossings will be upgraded between Hook and Basingstoke and at Eastleigh West junction, which starts late in the evening on Christmas Eve and finishes on the morning of Sunday 27 December.
Signal testing as part of the Feltham resignalling scheme will take place between late in the evening on Christmas Eve and finish the morning of Sunday 27 December.
New track will be laid and Cow Lane bridge near Cosham, Portsmouth will be rebuilt between Friday 1 and Sunday 3 January 2021 (plus 17 January).
Timber structures on the bridge between Fratton and Portsmouth Harbour will be replaced on Sunday 3 and Monday 4 January 2021.
Engineering works will be taking place at Gatwick Airport as part of the station’s upgrade project. As a result, Southern services between London Victoria and Bognor Regis/Portsmouth and Southsea/Southampton will operate on diversion via Dorking. These services will not call at Gatwick Airport or nearby stations such as Crawley or Three Bridges.
Passengers from Horsham or to the south, wishing to travel to Gatwick Airport, will have to change trains at Horsham. Thameslink services will operate on the route between Horsham, Gatwick Airport and London Bridge.
Southern and Gatwick Express services between London Victoria and Brighton will not operate Monday 28 December – Thursday 31 December or on Saturday 2 January. Passengers for Brighton to/from London or Gatwick Airport should plan to use Thameslink services to/from London Bridge.
The Thameslink Gatwick Airport to Bedford via Redhill service will start its journey at Three Bridges.
Maintenance and track-renewal works will take place at Charing Cross/Cannon Street to London Bridge and New Cross. Southeastern services will operate from London Bridge, and there will be a bus replacement service between Lewisham and Hayes from 27-29 December. Between 1-3 January buses will replace trains between Lewisham and Hayes and between Lewisham and Charlton via New Cross.
Great Eastern (Anglia)
Vital maintenance to the Great Eastern main line around Colchester will improve the reliability of services in the region. Engineering work will be taking place between 25 December and 3 January with rail replacement bus services running on several routes.