Network Rail will be carrying out a series of emergency works to replace 87 pairs of wheel timbers on the railway tracks on four bridges at Manea, between Ely and Peterborough, later this summer and early autumn. It will require closures of the line over several weekends and a 28-day full closure in September.

Following the derailment of a freight train on a wheel-timber bridge at Wanstead Park earlier this year, additional inspections were carried out on railway bridges with softwood timbers using new technology, to understand the internal condition of the timbers.

The four bridges at Manea were part of this additional inspection programme. It was found that 87 of the 140 pairs of wheel timbers across the structures now require urgent replacement.

If these timbers are not replaced soon, its almost certain that there will be further deterioration. This would then lead to either additional speed restrictions or the closure of the line, significantly disrupting train services. As a result, this work must take place as soon as possible.

There are currently 20 miles per hour speed restrictions over these bridges to make it safer for trains passing over them, and this will continue until the work begins.

The work is expected to be completed during a 28-day closure of the line from 6 September to 4 October 2020 and on the following dates:

Sunday 2 August

Saturday 22 to Sunday 23 August

Sunday 11 October

Saturday 31 October to Sunday 1 November

Sunday 8 November

Any passenger planning a journey during this time is urged to check with their train operator or National Rail Enquiries as to the alternatives available to help inform their travel plans.

Network Rail is looking at what additional work it can carry out across the closed line to maximise the time to make the railway better for passengers and freight users once the railway is back in use. Further details will be published nearer the time.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “I know this kind of disruption is incredibly frustrating for our passengers, and I’m sorry that it will impact people’s journeys for so long. Running a safe railway is my absolute priority, and so while I know it will be painful for passengers and our freight customers, I believe this is the right decision to get the work done as soon as possible.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, said: “Although there’s never a good time to carry out engineering work, particularly over this length of time, we understand the need for these urgent and important works. Running a safe, reliable railway is our first priority, so these remedial actions are necessary to prevent more disruptive works at a later date.

“A rail replacement bus service will run while the work takes place, to ensure customers can complete their journeys. Full timetables will be uploaded to our website soon. We would urge customers to plan their journeys in advance as they are likely to take significantly longer than usual.

“We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused and thank customers for their patience and understanding.”

Richard Morris, CrossCountry’s Regional Director for East Midlands & East Anglia, said: “We know long periods of engineering work can be an inconvenience, and have worked closely with Network Rail to minimise the impact on our customers as much as possible. We are sorry if anyone’s journeys are affected by this, but when complete this work will ensure the continued safe and reliable operation of our services through Manea for many years to come.”