Network Rail is investing £8.6m to renew vital pieces of track to the south of Newcastle station this January as part of the Great North Rail Project.
Between Saturday 6 January and Monday 15 January, a total of 19 sets of ‘switches and crossings’ – more commonly known as points – will be upgraded, bringing significant long-term reliability benefits for the eight million passengers who use Newcastle station every year.
Switches and crossings are moveable pieces of track that guide trains from one route to another, and have a limited lifespan due to the immense wear they receive from heavy trains. The units at Newcastle were installed in the 1980s and although regular maintenance has kept them in good working order for many years they are now in need of replacing, having failed 15 times between January and October this year.
The meticulously planned upgrade means some short-term changes to services to and from Newcastle while engineers carry out nine days of engineering, with almost 2,000 passenger trains and 260 freights which usually cross the city’s King Edward Bridge unable to run. Platforms 9-12 will also be out of use for the duration of the work too.
A revised timetable will be in operation with some services starting and/or terminating at York, Durham and the Metro Centre. Buses will also be used to help move passengers between some stations, but trains to and from Newcastle will be extremely busy and passengers are advised to check before they travel.
Rob McIntosh, managing director for Network Rail’s London North Eastern and East Midlands route said: “There is never a good time to carry out railway work which disrupts passengers but this upgrade is absolutely essential and we have worked extremely closely with our train operating partners to keep disruption to a minimum and make passenger information as clear as possible. Newcastle is a critical part of our network and by keeping the infrastructure safe and reliable we are meeting the needs of the economies and communities our railway serves for both the short and long term.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together train companies and Network Rail to enable a better railway, said: “Rail companies are working together with a long-term plan to deliver major improvements to the railway which will boost the economy, better connect communities and improve journeys for customers, now and for the long term. Nationwide, our plan to change and improve the railway will mean 6,400 extra train services a week by 2021, over 5,700 new carriages and more rail jobs in towns and cities across the country.”
Virgin Trains, which manages Newcastle station, said it would provide extra staff and signage to help customers during the engineering works.
Virgin Trains will run a full timetable on weekdays, although southbound services from Edinburgh will run 15 minutes earlier until they reach Newcastle. They will then run as scheduled. Its northbound services will be extended by up to 15 minutes. From 12.15 Saturday 13 January to 13.00 Sunday 14 January, Virgin Trains will run an hourly service between London King’s Cross and Newcastle and Scotland. It will take a diversionary route between York and Newcastle with journey times extended by approximately 60 minutes, while some services will terminate at Darlington.