Network Rail is urging passengers planning on travelling on the Midland Main Line, which runs from London St Pancras to major cities in Bedfordshire, the East Midlands and Yorkshire, to check before they travel this Christmas and New Year as Network Rail delivers huge upgrades to the railway.
This Christmas and New Year, Network Rail engineers will carry out vital improvements across the country including an upgrade the track layout north of Wellingborough railway station, which will see ten switches and crossings, the specialist piece of equipment which allows trains to move from one piece of track to another, replaced.
The project will create the capability for six trains to London St Pancras per hour, up from the current five by the end of 2020.
Further south on the line, 60 workers will spend a combined 14,000 hours continuing with work which began last Christmas to upgrade concrete slab which supports the track through Kentish Town.
The slab was laid in the late 1970s and while routine maintenance has preserved it, major work is needed to continue to allow trains to pass through the area safely and reliably for years to come. Both pieces of work will create a more modern and reliable railway for passengers.
The upgrades are part of Network Rail’s five-year railway upgrade plan – a multi-billion-pound investment in the rail network which will improve passenger journeys in the months and years ahead.
Overall there will be less disruption for rail users this year, compared to last, as most of the investment work has been scheduled for when no trains are planned to run, such as on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Passengers will be affected on the Midland Main Line from Monday 24 December this year to give engineers three clear days to make uninterrupted progress on vital projects. The projects will mean changes to train services from Monday 24 December to Tuesday 1 January with passengers strongly advised to check before they travel.
Rob McIntosh, Route Managing Director for Network Rail, said: “Christmas is our once-a-year- opportunity to carry out extensive improvement work without affecting passengers. We have dozens of projects which will be completed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day with no impact on train services. These projects will enable us to keep operating a safe, reliable railway for the communities and economies which we support.
“We know that our railway is up to 50% quieter than usual during Christmas and the New Year so where our planned upgrade work is more complicated to deliver, such as the projects on the Midland Main Line, we take the extra days either side of Christmas to minimise the disruption caused. In all cases, we work closely with the train companies to make sure passengers have accurate, timely information to allow them to plan ahead and we thank them for their patience.”
Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, who represent the rail industry, said: “The engineering work this Christmas is part of the industry’s plan to improve by delivering the largest investment in our railway since the Victorian era. Our priority is to reduce the impact this work has on our customers who need to travel by train this holiday season. So, it is important for people to check before they travel, and remember that if their train is cancelled or delayed that they can claim a refund.”
Jake Kelly, Managing Director, East Midlands Trains, said: “There are some significant changes to our services this Christmas and New Year and we urge anyone travelling to check as soon as possible and understand how their journey will be affected.”
A Thameslink spokesperson said: “Our Thameslink services will continue to operate during the Christmas period but passengers are advised to check before they travel.”
A breakdown of how journeys will be affected can be found by visiting nationalrail.co.uk/Christmas and following #XmasRailWorks on Twitter.