Rail passengers in South Wales are reminded to check before they travel over the Christmas and New Year period as Network Rail upgrades the railway ahead of electric services being introduced.
In the Cardiff area, engineers will be working from 24 December to 2 January 2020 to switch on the electricity running through the overhead line equipment between St Brides, Newport and west of Cardiff Central station ahead of a final stage of testing.
The upgrade will mean from 6 January electric services will be in service, on GWR’s Intercity Express Trains between Cardiff Central and London Paddington, with electrification enabling more seats, frequent services and quicker journeys for passengers.
Elsewhere over the Christmas period Network Rail will also be working around the clock from 24 December to 2 January 2020 at the east end of Newport station to replace a significant amount of track, renew the switches and crossings which allows trains to go from one track to another, replace the surface edges of platforms two, three and four and make some adjustments to the overhead line equipment.
This work will improve the resilience and reliability of the railway for passengers and enable trains to move between tracks in and out of the station more easily.
Bill Kelly, route director for Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “Electrification reaching Cardiff is a major milestone in the upgrade of the Great Western Mainline and the culmination of many years’ work.
“The track work at Newport is also a significant investment to improve the resilience and reliability of the railway for passengers, for years to come.
“We would like to thank passengers and our lineside neighbours for bearing with us as we continue to deliver these major upgrades.
“We urge the public to remain vigilant at all times near the railway and to stay away from the electrified wires at all times.”
Throughout the work, there will be rail replacement bus services in operation on routes between Bridgend and Cwmbran/Ebbw Vale/Chepstow and Bristol Parkway and all passengers are advised to check before travelling via www.nationalrail.co.uk
Bethan Jelfs, customer delivery director for Transport for Wales Rail Services said: “Christmas and the New Year is always a busy time for rail travel with people commuting to work, Christmas shopping, attending parties, going on holiday and visiting family and friends.
“We will be working closely with our railway partners to ensure people get to their destinations safely.
“Services will start to shut down from 8pm on Christmas Eve and our message is very much that customers should always check before they travel and allow extra time for their journeys wherever possible.”
GWR managing director Mark Hopwood said: “It’s absolutely essential that Network Rail do this work, and Christmas is the only time that we can do it. Unfortunately, this means that we are not able to offer services between Cardiff and Bristol Parkway from Friday 27 December to Wednesday 1 January.
“With industrial action on the South Western Railway network there are limited options for alternative travel on those dates and we advise customers to carefully consider this before they travel.
“A reduced service will be back running on the 28 December, with our full and improved timetable from Thursday 2 January. I am grateful to customers for their patience during these works.”