Passengers in the west and across Wales are urged to check before travelling this Christmas and New Year as Network Rail carries out festive upgrades: Passenger at departure board

Friday 1 Dec 2023

Passengers in the west and across Wales are urged to check before travelling this Christmas and New Year as Network Rail carries out festive upgrades

Region & Route:
Wales & Western: Western
| Wales & Western
| Wales & Western: Wales & Borders

Rail passengers are being asked to plan ahead and check before they travel this festive period as Network Rail completes its annual planned railway upgrades.

This Christmas, essential upgrade, improvement and maintenance work will be taking place in several areas across Network Rail’s Western route – which runs from Paddington to Penzance – and on the Wales and Borders route.

Western route

Services to and from London Paddington will be affected on Sunday 24 December and Wednesday 27 December, with most GWR services starting and terminating at Reading instead of Paddington and limited trains to and from Ealing Broadway. This will enable engineers to carry out preparatory work for new signalling and track equipment which will be necessary to deliver trains to HS2’s new station at Old Oak Common near London.

There will be no trains on Christmas Day or Boxing Day and those who need to travel on Sunday 24 or Wednesday 27 December are being advised to allow plenty of time to reach their destination as journey times will be significantly longer than normal. 

Elsewhere, engineers will be working on the signalling upgrade in Devon and Cornwall from midnight on Christmas Eve until Wednesday 27 December. This is part of a larger project, due to finish in 2024, that will modernise the signalling system and bring it into the 21st century. Once complete, this will help to deliver a more reliable railway and open up possibilities for additional services in the future.

In North Bristol, Network Rail teams will be installing a footbridge for the new station at Ashley Down, due to open next year. This work is taking place on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

In Frome, Somerset, engineers will be renewing North Row bridge, with teams working from 7:30pm on Saturday 23 December until 7:00am on Tuesday 2 January. This critical work will enable better performance and reliability for freight trains.

Wales and Borders route

Overhead line equipment maintenance will be taking place within the Severn Tunnel overnight on Saturday 30 December when trains aren’t running and until 2:00pm on Sunday 31 December. Trains to and from London Paddington will be diverted on Sunday until the tunnel reopens in the afternoon and there will be a rail replacement service operating between Bristol Parkway and Newport, and between Cardiff and Bristol Temple Meads.

A rail replacement service will also be in operation between Cardiff and Ebbw Vale Town throughout the morning on Sunday 31 December as maintenance work takes place in the Ebbw Vale area.

On Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 December, the line between Crewe and Shrewsbury will be shut while repairs to a railway bridge are carried out.

Network Rail teams on the Western and Wales and Borders routes will be using 24 specialist engineering trains over the festive period across multiple work sites to deliver critical upgrades that will enhance performance, improve reliability and renew assets.

Michelle Handforth, managing director, Wales & Western, Network Rail, said: “Our festive upgrades are crucial to ensuring the railway continues to run reliably and safely.

“Our continued investment into upgrading and improving the railway is evidence of our commitment to providing a railway fit for the 21st century.

“There is never a good time to disrupt services but, when we do need to, we always look to do it at a time when there are fewest people travelling. With no trains on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, choosing to undertake the majority of our work on those days clearly makes sense overall.

“We thank passengers in advance for their patience and urge them to check before they travel.”

Dean Haynes, GWR’s Station Manager for London Paddington, said: “As we continue to invest in our railway, we will only be able to run trains to and from Reading and Ealing Broadway on 24 and 27 of December.

“To keep you moving, we have been working with other train companies to provide alternative routes. However, if you can travel on the days before or after, you should consider doing so because journeys will take much longer while the work takes place.” 

Marie Daly, chief customer and culture officer at Transport for Wales, said: “We’ll be working hard to keep people moving across the Wales and Borders network during the busy Christmas and New Year period.

“It is important customers plan their journeys carefully and check for the latest information using our award-winning mobile app or website before travelling, as services may be subject to short-notice changes.”

Passengers can find out how their Christmas journeys will be affected with their train operator, via National Rail Enquiries, or by following #ChristmasRailWorks on X.

Contact information

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

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Emily Maiden
Network Rail

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.

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