Published 21st December 2014
Christmas and the New Year period is a holiday time for the vast majority of people. But many railway staff will be giving up their holiday entitlement to work long shifts while lines are closed to traffic.
The railways are in record times of expansion in terms of usage and investment and it is these two factors that make it necessary to close swathes of track to enable network upgrades to go ahead. This Christmas sees £200 million of major works being undertaken across the network so any intending passenger should take time out to check that trains are running and if so, to what timetable.
Rail.co.uk takes a brief look at the major alterations for this holiday period and at the longer term train service changes involving the London Bridge rebuilding as part of the Thameslink upgrade.
Mark Carne, chief executive, Network Rail said; "Making the railway better is what we aim to do everyday and our investment programme this Christmas, the biggest yet, is fully focussed on delivering a better service for passengers by keeping lines open while our people work safely, causing much less disruption."
The huge £6.5billion Thameslink project moves into its next phase at London Bridge with a pair of new platforms opening and new track laid as the station transformation continues. This work started on December 20 and as a result, no Southern or Thameslink trains will use the station until January 5.
The through high-level platforms used by Thameslink trains at London Bridge will be closed and rebuilt over the next few years and only a reduced Thameslink service will be calling at London Bridge for the next 30 months.
The station is used by over a million passengers a week so minimising disruption to passengers during the rebuilding not an easy task.
From 12 January 2015 to August 2016, Southeastern services to and from Charing Cross will not be calling at London Bridge as the high level platforms are rebuilt. And from the same date, Southeastern services from New Cross, St. Johns, Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park also not serve Charing Cross or Waterloo East but go to Cannon Street instead.
Similar arrangements are in place for passengers using Plumstead, Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere and Erith until August 2016. But, Southeastern services to and from Cannon Street will continue to call at London Bridge.
Because Cannon Street is being used more intensively than usual, its opening hours have been increased to seven days a week with extended hours as is the underground station.
Southern services are diverted away from London Bridge until Sunday 4 January. Southern will be running an amended service across their network especially so far as Victoria is concerned and no trains at all will serve London Bridge.
Just a few miles to the north where that iconic film, the Ladykillers was filmed, between Gasworks and Copenhagen Tunnels at Holloway outside Kings Cross, the Thameslink network will be joined to the East Coast Main Line.
New overhead power equipment will be installed linking the new Canal Tunnels which connects to the existing subterranean line through St. Pancras. In 2018, trains will run between Peterborough and Cambridge to the South Coast and Gatwick.
The West Coast Main Line (WCML) sees another blockage as more work is carried out in the Watford area to upgrade track and signalling. This work we should remember, was cancelled nearly ten years ago when Network Rail declared the WCML modernisation project complete - but this comment bounced back badly following repeated infrastructure failures.
Network Rail says that “passengers will enjoy a more reliable and resilient service as a new, state-of-the-art signalling system is brought into use in and around the Watford area”.
From end of services on 24 December until the 28 December, the line between Watford Junction and London Euston will be closed. The adjacent Chiltern Railways’ route is open from Boxing Day between Bicester North and Marylebone. December 27 and 28 sees a revised Christmas timetable running and Chiltern will be adding up to 10,000 extra seats per day on their Aylesbury (via Amersham) and the Birmingham to London Marylebone lines.
Chiltern will be accepting Virgin any permitted route tickets on similar reasonable routes and "London Midland only" tickets on walk-up fares only. London Midland and Virgin Trains’ season tickets will be valid on all trains serving Marylebone.
services will be hit on Saturday 27 December and Sunday 28 December with no trains on the St. Albans Abbey line and the Birmingham New Street redevelopment project and signalling works around Stafford mean that Birmingham – Liverpool trains will only operate between Crewe and Liverpool. Virgin services will resume on December 29 and are likely to be very busy after a gap of several days.
The southwest mainline is the busiest commuter route in the UK serving Waterloo, the UK’s busiest station. So opportunities to renew track and signalling are few and far between. But seven consecutive weekend closures commencing on January 3 will take place replace 40 year old pointwork west of Wimbledon. Longer distance Southwest Trains’ services will be affected with a 60 minute extension to longer distance services – beware!
A year ago, Island Line suffered badly from the storms and suffered several washouts and landslides. The most serious landslip occurred near Sandown and long-term repairs will be carried out between January 12 and March 20.
This work will close the line between Shanklin and Ryde St Johns and a replacement bus service will operate. The only trains to run in this period will be between Ryde St Johns Road and Ryde Pier Head.
upgrade carries on with the one of the last pieces of the Reading area jigsaw put in place which will, when complete, unblock the well known railway bottleneck there with the completion of a newly build viaduct to the west of the station leading to smoother more reliable services.