Passengers travelling in the North East are being advised to check before they travel on Sunday 24 February and for the next four weekends as Network Rail carries out work to upgrade signalling and track in the region.

As part of the Great North Rail Project, Network Rail engineers will move control of the signalling from Bowesfield signal box to the rail operating centre in York, upgrade Urlay Nook level crossing and improve track in the area, which will improve reliability and create a more modern railway.

The first phase of the work will take place on Sunday 24 February and Network Rail is advising passengers to plan their journeys and check before they travel via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator. The work will mean changes to train services as coach replacement services and diversionary routes will be in place.

TransPennine Express services between Manchester Airport/Piccadilly and Middlesbrough will be diverted to run to/from Darlington and buses will replace services between Northallerton and Middlesbrough.

Grand Central services between London and Sunderland will be diverted via Durham which will extend journey times by up to 30 minutes. Rail replacement bus services will run between Eaglescliffe and Hartlepool.

The upgrade to signalling  follows on from the completion of similar schemes in the North which have seen control of signalling from across East and West Yorkshire move from old-fashioned lineside signal boxes to the more modern, state-of-the-art rail operating centre, which brings greater reliability to the railway.

The projects will also impact on services on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 March, Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 March, Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 March and Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 March.

Rob McIntosh, Network Rail Route Managing Director said: “We apologise to passengers who will be inconvenienced for a total of five weekends whilst we undertake this vital £3.5 million signalling and track enhancement project in the North East. We appreciate there is never a good time to work on the railway and we are working closely with train operating companies to keep disruption to a minimum.

“The Great North Rail projects is bringing tangible benefits to customers across the North of England. The work carried out will create a more modern and reliable railway which will allow us to provide a better experience to the passengers and communities we serve. We thank passengers for their patience and look forward to them being able to enjoy an enhanced service going forward.”