Christmas starts now for 24,000 railway engineers after successful delivery of £100m upgrade work: Maidenhead 27.12 (35)

Tuesday 3 Jan 2017

Christmas starts now for 24,000 railway engineers after successful delivery of £100m upgrade work


More than 24,000 members of Network Rail’s orange army are heading home for a belated Christmas after an intensive, but very successful ten days of railway improvement work.

Our teams worked more than 600,000 hours so that passengers across the land can benefit from improved reliability and reduced congestion following the £100m invested over the last ten days on the rail network. The work was completed at the quietest time for rail travel on the country’s railway with around half the normal number of passengers travelling compared to the 4.5 million who typically use the network daily.

From engineers and track layers to project managers and scaffolders, our teams battled freezing conditions over the Christmas period to deliver 200 projects across Britain – the biggest programme of Christmas works in Network Rail’s history.

This year’s work saw new bridges built, miles of new track installed and state of the art new signalling equipment brought online. Among the Christmas upgrade work, significant progress was made on preparations for the new Crossrail route across London which is due to open in 2018, and real progress was made on a new link between Manchester city centre’s main train stations - the first time this has ever been done.

Here are just four of the many Network Rail staff who help deliver the remarkable amount of work across the country.

Janice Crawford and Becky Lumlock Waterloo International Terminal

Janice Crawford, Regional Director for major projects in the south, worked her first Christmas having joined Network Rail ten months ago. Janice (l) is pictured here at Waterloo International terminal with Becky Lumlock, Route Managing Director for the Wessex Route.

Janice said: “This was my first Christmas at Network Rail and I was hugely impressed with the work that I saw being carried out, some of which was extremely complex. It was also fantastic to see so many women out on site as well, far more than when I started as an apprentice in the industry.

“I visited a site on Christmas Day where we removed the track, demolished a bridge, replaced it with a new bridge, and put new track in place. We did all that safely and had the railway back up and running in less than 48 hours. It was very impressive to watch.

“Knowing that most of the nation were spending Christmas with their loved ones made the teams' commitment all the more inspiring. I was fortunate to be able to get home for Christmas dinner with my family including my grandson, but our workers didn’t. They carried on with their tasks to ensure that the railway would be back up and working for passengers as quickly as possible. I take my hat off to each and every one of them.”

Billy Russell

Billy Russell, 25  from Maidstone in Kent is a scaffolder with Alltask, one of Network Rail’s contractors. He spent Christmas Day at a project site in Bramley, Hampshire where a 150-year old railway bridge was replaced. Billy has a 7 year-old stepson and two children aged three and two.

Billy said: “This was the first Christmas Day that I’ve worked since I had my two youngest children.  I missed their whole day as I left home at 4am and didn’t get back until after they’d gone to bed. It’s hard knowing that I missed out on all their excitement however, I figure that it was a small sacrifice to make. The kids aren’t interested in me on Christmas Day, it’s all about their presents whereas on site, I’ve been a part of something that will improve rail journeys in this area and I’ve helped to ensure that it’s all been done safely.  We did the work that needed to be done. That gave me a good feeling and made it easier when I was sitting down to cold turkey and potatoes on Christmas evening.”

Oyunga Carter

Oyunga Carter, is a Programme Management Assistant for the Ordsall Chord project in Manchester which will connect the city's two railway stations once complete. 

Oyunga said: “Since 18 December I have been working towards a major milestone in the delivery of the Ordsall Chord project. The whole team worked through wind, rain and even the rare Manchester sunshine to deliver the project over Christmas and we really pulled together to get the project finished on time. Although being apart from family and friends is always difficult at this time of year, the scale of the work we have achieved is immense on this once in a lifetime project. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.”

Alexandra Bassett, a Scheme Project Manager on the Crossrail project, worked her second Christmas on the railway this year. She’s worked for Network Rail for five years.

Alexandra said: “I’ve been doing nightshifts over Christmas in the control room at Romford while also going out and visiting some of the Crossrail sites. I don’t mind working over the holidays as there is always such a nice atmosphere among the staff who are all pulling together to get the job done, but remaining cheerful in the process. It makes me proud to be a part of such a vital project which will benefit millions of people once the line opens in 2018.”

Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, added: “As the government continues with the biggest investment in our rail services since the Victorian era, huge infrastructure projects have to be delivered when the travelling public will be least inconvenienced. I am grateful to the many workers who form the Orange Army for giving up Christmas with their friends and family to help ensure improvements on our railways.”

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne who visited many of projects over Christmas said:

“Our people can now go home and enjoy their delayed Christmas and be proud of having delivered a huge programme of railway improvement work. And we don’t just do it at Christmas. We are working week in, week out as we invest to transform our railway.

“We’d like to thank passengers for their understanding over the festive period while we worked to deliver our Railway Upgrade Plan and continue to enhance both the capacity and reliability of our railway.”


Notes to editors

More images from the work carried out across the country are available from the Network Rail press office.

The festive period in numbers:

  • £103m spent on improving the railway for passengers.
  • 200 projects undertaken on the railway over the festive period.
  • 6 days – how long Paddington station was closed while Crossrail preparations took place.
  • 21,642 tonnes of ballast laid on the line out of Paddington station.

Major projects undertaken this Christmas:

London area

In and around London, work to install and upgrade signalling, tracks and overhead lines as part of the Crossrail project took place. The project will provide new trains, better stations and quicker, easier, more reliable journeys for passengers in and around London. Major work on the approaches to London Bridge as part of the Thameslink programme also took place as well as track upgrades which affected services into London Bridge, London Cannon Street and London Charing Cross.

Manchester area

Since October 2015 work has been taking place on the Ordsall Chord. This will be 300 metres of new track which will create a link between Manchester city centre’s main train stations for the first time. However, for this vital piece of track to be fitted, a huge amount of work took place over the festive season.  This included realigning existing track, building new bridges, removing disused arches and restoring listed structures. This is part of our plan to stimulate economic growth in the north of England through better connections between key towns and cities.

Cardiff area

As part of a £300m scheme to modernise the railway in South Wales – the biggest investment in the Welsh network for more than 100 years – the Cardiff Area Signalling Renewal (CASR) project is a congestion-busting scheme that will also help to deliver a more reliable railway across the Cardiff and Valleys network.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - Lisa Russell
Senior media relations manager
Network Rail
07734 649250

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Every day, there are more than 4.7 million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

We are building a better railway for a better Britain.

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