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Installation of overhead gantries at Shenfield

Planned works

We always plan essential works with great care to keep disruption to a minimum

As part of our Railway Upgrade Plan, we’re working for you to allow trains to run more frequently, at higher speeds, and improve the reliability of the rail network to reduce delays in the future.

Our timetables are planned 12 months in advance, and we schedule in the time needed for planned works to improve the rail network.

When we need to carry out planned engineering works, such as replacing tracks or upgrading signalling systems, we might need to close a section of track for 24 hours to complete the upgrade work efficiently and safely.

Trains run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so there’s no time when the network isn’t being used, meaning works can cause some disruption for passengers and businesses.

You can find out about planned engineering works in your area here, or check National Rail Enquiries.

Why we carry out planned works over bank holidays

We plan works for certain times so they cause the least disruption to passengers, such as on bank holidays, Sundays and overnight, when the network is less busy.

An independent review in 2016 looking at how the rail industry plans and schedules major improvement work concluded that Christmas, Easter and bank holidays are the best times for upgrades that need major lines to be closed. Even though it might seem strange to carry out work at Christmas – when people are travelling to see friends and family – on average, around half the usual five million people travel by train each day during the Christmas period.

How we’re reducing the time planned works take

We’re investing all the time in new machinery and processes to speed up our planned works while maintaining high levels of safety for workers and passengers on our railway – the safest railway in Europe.

For example, our High Output teams replace tracks overnight using an efficient track relaying system that can lay up to 650 metres of track in an eight-hour line closure. Significantly reducing the time the work takes reduces disruption for passengers.

In addition, engineering innovations mean trains can often now run on the line at full speed straight after track renewal work, so there are fewer delays to timetables caused by slow trains, and better journey times for passengers. Track renewal typically requires a temporary speed restriction on the line for a week after the work is finished, so the ballast – the stones beneath the track – can settle. Now, improvements in technology create a strong foundation straight away, so this isn’t necessary.

When works cause a delay

Some disruption to regular journeys due to maintenance and engineering works is inevitable, so it’s always best to check before travelling. National Rail Enquiries provides details of how planned works are affecting timetables. It also has advice on how to claim compensation due to delays caused by engineering works.

Planned works can occasionally overrun and cause unexpected delays. There are many other reasons why delays happen, such as the weather, signals and points failures, and damage caused by trespassing. Our delays explained section highlights why these situations cause delays and how we’re working hard to prevent the disruption they can cause.

When delays do happen, we know how important it is to keep passengers informed. That’s why we work with the train companies to get essential information out to passengers. You can read about how we keep passengers updated about delays here.