Overhead wire upgrade to deliver major reliability improvements for Southend rail passengers: Southend Victoria branch line overnight improvements

Tuesday 27 Jun 2017

Overhead wire upgrade to deliver major reliability improvements for Southend rail passengers


Major improvement work taking place overnight on the line between Southend Victoria and London Liverpool Street will result in fewer delays for rail passengers.

Network Rail is replacing the old 1950s overhead wires with new wires that won’t sag in hot weather, increasing reliability all year round. In order to speed up the programme, and so that the benefits can be delivered sooner, work is taking place during the night from Monday to Thursday each week between Wickford and Shenfield.

Since the work began last month, Network Rail engineers have been installing structures that will carry 128km of new overhead wire when it is installed later in the year. Work will continue on the first phase of the £46m project until mid-December, to improve the line as part of the company’s Railway Upgrade Plan.

The wires and structures that are currently in place were installed in the 1950s and the system is one of the oldest in the country. When the weather gets hot, the wires sag and speed restrictions have to be imposed to protect them from damage by trains. The new wires are controlled by a system of weights, to keep them taut at all times, so trains can pass at their normal speed meaning fewer delays.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “We are installing new overhead wires on this very busy line as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan to make journeys more reliable for Southend passengers. In order to get the work done quicker, and so that passengers can benefit sooner, we’re working overnight during the week. I urge those travelling in the late evening to check how their journey will be affected.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: “We realise engineering works are inconvenient as customers prefer to stay on the train, but we will make sure that all customers  are able to complete their journeys, even if some of it is by replacement bus. Last year hot weather led to the lines sagging and speed restrictions but this work will make the service much more reliable in the future.”

Passengers travelling between Southend Victoria and London Liverpool Street after 9:30pm Monday – Thursday are advised to check before they travel. A rail replacement bus service will be in place between Shenfield and Wickford, which takes just over 30 minutes and also calls at Billericay. The last train of the night is replaced with buses from Shenfield to Southend, with a direct or stopping service departing Shenfield at 01.25. A replacement bus service will also run from Wickford to London Liverpool Street, departing at 23.27.

The work will not take place when West Ham United play at home and during the World Championships in Athletics, so train services will run on those days.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
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Latest travel advice
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Network Rail press office - Katie Mack
Media relations manager (Anglia route)
020 3356 2515

About Network Rail

Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 36,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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