Massive festive season work programme for Network Rail

Published Mon, 2015-12-21 10:58

Hundreds of thousands of passengers and freight users are set to benefit from one of the biggest Christmas and New Year investment programmes ever carried out on Britain’s rail network.


The port of Immingham will benefit from part of £100 million investment in north-east Lincolnshire upgrade — part of the Network Rail work to be undertaken over the Christmas period. © David Enefer/Network Rail

As is usual at this time of year, vast swathes of the national network are closed for planned engineering work as Network Rail takes advantage of the reduced traffic of the days over the holiday season to push forward work on a number of major engineering schemes. In previous years Network Rail has been criticised for the late-running of some of its Christmas works, most notably at King’s Cross last year and so it will be keen to see all of this year’s ambitious programme completed within the allocated time-frame.
More than 20,000 members of Network Rail’s orange army will be spending their Christmas Day and the days that follow working on the railway across Britain and Wales to deliver the Railway Upgrade Plan. New station facilities, longer platforms, extra tracks, new junctions and thousands of pieces of new, more reliable equipment will be installed and delivered in a £150 million investment programme that will begin late on Christmas Eve once the last trains have run.
Almost 500 individual improvement projects will be carried out by Network Rail across Britain over the festive period, the majority of which will have no impact on passengers. Where there are changes to services as a result of upgrade work, a comprehensive advertising campaign is underway to make sure passengers are able to make informed decisions about their travel. This will mean there will be no trains between Croydon and Redhill from 10pm on Christmas Eve until early on 4 January and the Gatwick Express will not be running. A mixture of diversions and rail replacement buses will keep passengers on the move but journey times between London and Gatwick Airport will take up to 90 minutes. Trains from Brighton to Gatwick will be unaffected.
Network Rail’s project at Purley will see the junction at the north of the station, where lines from Tattenham Corner, Caterham, Redhill and Gatwick Airport meet each other, completely replaced with modern track and signalling equipment. In addition, a railway bridge over Old Lodge Lane, in Reedham, will be replaced.
At London Bridge major improvements being carried out around the station will affect journeys over the festive period, from the afternoon of Christmas Eve until the night of January 3. Passengers are being urged to make sure they leave London in plenty of time to avoid missing the last train home.
The work by Network Rail as part of its Railway Upgrade Plan means that there will be no Southeastern trains at London Bridge, Charing Cross, Waterloo East and Cannon Street over the period, including three working days. Passengers will still be able to reach London with services diverted to Victoria and Blackfriars, or terminating at New Cross for London Overground connections. In addition, stations between Deptford and Westcombe Park, including Greenwich, will be closed and trains replaced by buses. Tickets will be accepted on alternative routes.
Southern and Thameslink trains from London Bridge will not be affected.
The work, which will be completed in time for trains to resume on Monday, 4 January 2016, is part of the scheme to rebuild London Bridge station and the surrounding railway to give passengers across the south east more trains to more destinations.
It includes the opening of the new Borough Viaduct to trains so work can begin to rebuild the tracks currently used by trains travelling between London Bridge and Charing Cross.
Southeastern’s High Speed trains will continue to run to and from St Pancras International throughout the period, apart from Christmas Day itself and will run a special service on Boxing Day between Ashford International and St Pancras International. In the south west and Thames Valley Network Rail will be working hard to upgrade and modernise the Great Western Main Line in preparation for the arrival of electrification, the new fleet of electric trains and Crossrail services in the south east.
The work is extensive and will involve platform improvements at Hayes & Harlington station; upgrading the overhead power lines between Acton and the junction to Heathrow airport; re-aligning the tracks at Heathrow junction and installing a new set of points, to enable trains to move from one track to another; installing the foundations for overhead power lines between the junction to Heathrow Airport and Maidenhead using a process known as ‘piling’; the extension of platform 14 at Paddington station in preparation for the longer electric trains; and the replacement of Stratton Green bridge in Swindon with a new, higher bridge to make the additional room needed for the overhead electrification lines that will be installed underneath.
In Wales, reduced services will run between Cardiff and Newport as Network Rail carries out work to help improve the reliability of rail services by re-signalling the railway in the Cardiff area. The work is part of the Cardiff Area Signalling Renewal scheme which will help to modernise the railway in South Wales by replacing ageing signalling equipment, enhancing track layouts, building new platforms and improving stations.
Work will also be carried out over the Christmas period as part of the electrification of the South Wales Mainline. In order to prepare the railway for the overhead lines which will power electric trains, a number of bridges in Newport and Monmouthshire will be replaced with new and improved structures.
In north-east Lincolnshire, following earlier work in late November and early December, the first five days of the full project, which begins on Christmas Eve will focus on the busy port of Immingham where for five days the rail operation will close down so the upgrade can take place. Cargo ships with rail-bound containers will enter the UK through neighbouring ports, including Hull, until the railway serving Immingham reopens on 30 December. The port will remain open for shipping movements and all other operations during the upgrade period.
For train passengers in the Grimsby and Cleethorpes area, buses or taxis will replace trains throughout the duration of the work, although not all routes will be closed for the full 17-day duration. Passengers are urged to check before they travel from Scunthorpe, Cleethorpes, Lincoln Central, Doncaster and Barton-Upon-Humber between 24 December 2015 and 11 January 2016.
There has been the inevitable negative comments in some of the media about the closures, particularly the fact that the direct link between Gatwick Airport and London has been closed during the holiday period, but Network Rail has stressed that, with fewer passengers travelling than at other times, this gives it the best opportunity to undertake engineering work of this scale.