Railway prepared for busy festive period as majority of network open for business as usual: Passengers image

Monday 15 Nov 2021

Railway prepared for busy festive period as majority of network open for business as usual

Region & Route:
  • Vast majority of the rail network – over 95% – will be open for business as usual for passengers looking to travel by train over Christmas and New Year
  • Most of the £131m upgrade work planned for when passenger trains don't run – such as overnight, Christmas Day and Boxing Day – to minimise disruption. But some routes will be affected by the essential work taking place, so passengers should plan ahead
  • Passengers – who are asked to wear a face covering in busy indoor settings unless they are exempt – can continue to travel with confidence this Christmas

The vast majority of Britain’s rail network (over 95%) will be open for business as usual over Christmas and New Year, helping people visit friends and family over the festive period.

Network Rail is working closely with train operators to minimise disruption to passengers by carrying out a significant portion of the upgrade work overnight, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when passenger services traditionally don’t run.

However, some routes will be affected by 370 key investment projects being delivered, so passengers are urged to plan their journeys in advance.

Passengers are also advised to follow government guidance and wear a face covering in busy indoor settings unless they are exempt. With good ventilation systems on trains, extra cleaning, and additional station staff deployed at locations where events such as Christmas markets are taking place, passengers can continue to travel with confidence.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “While some essential work is taking place to upgrade our railway over the festive period, we’ve worked hard with train operators to reduce the impact on passengers as far as possible so that they can spend time with their families and friends this Christmas.

“I’d like to thank the thousands of rail workers who will be working to keep services running, and those delivering upgrades to improve our railway and bring more reliable journeys to passengers in future.”

Rail freight services are also playing a key role in the build-up to Christmas. Working with freight operators and ports, Network Rail has increased capacity for freight trains to run on the network, helping to move key goods such as food, drink and clothes around the country. Just one additional weekly Sunday service between Tilbury and Daventry will transport 4.5 million bottles of wine to supermarkets between 12 November and Christmas Day.

The engineering work taking place over Christmas have been planned months, and in some cases years, in advance. Some of the projects being delivered this Christmas and New Year period include:

  • Signalling commissioning, track and HS2 works between Paddington and Slough to improve train performance. This means there will be no Heathrow Express or TfL Rail trains to London Heathrow Airport on Boxing Day. There will also be no London Underground services to Heathrow. Passengers can use coach services from Hammersmith or Acton Town.
  • Switches and crossings renewals and resignalling work between London Victoria and Streatham Common/Selhurst to improve train performance. Southern services will run to/from London Bridge between 25 December and 3 January, with no Gatwick Express service in operation. Trains to Gatwick will run from London Bridge.
  • Track remodelling, signalling upgrades and work to install new overhead wires at Leeds station as part of a long-term project to bring more reliable journeys for passengers and reduce the impact of delays across the North. A reduced train service will be in place to/from Leeds between 27 December and 3 January, with some bus replacement services in operation. There will be very limited train services on 2 January.
  • Northern City Line tunnel work to improve reliability and safety that will affect services between King’s Cross and Finsbury Park. No services will operate between 25-26 December. Services between Moorgate and Finsbury Park will divert into King’s Cross from 27-29 December as work continues to upgrade the track and signalling as part of the East Coast Digital Programme.
  • Track upgrades will take place between St Pancras International and Kentish Town to bring smoother, more reliable journeys for passengers. Reduced EMR and Thameslink services will run between 27 December – 4 January.
  • Switches and crossings and plain line track renewals at Bristol Parkway to improve passenger safety. CrossCountry services will not call at Bristol Parkway between 27-31 December, while some GWR services to/from Bristol Temple Meads will also be impacted.

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

Contact information

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

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Jack Harvey

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.

Usually, there are almost five 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.

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