West Midlands and Chiltern passengers asked to plan ahead when travelling over Christmas: Birmingham New Street platform level naked Avanti Train February 2020

Monday 7 Dec 2020

West Midlands and Chiltern passengers asked to plan ahead when travelling over Christmas

Region & Route:
North West & Central
| North West & Central: Central
  • Chiltern main line and West Midlands passengers should plan ahead if using the railway during the government’s Christmas travel window between 23 and 27 December
  • People should reserve seats on long distance trains, travel at quieter times and follow all safety advice to stop the spread of coronavirus
  • Railway improvements include ongoing work at Birmingham New Street station as part of major signalling upgrade on 25 and 26 December

Passengers using the railway in the West Midlands and Chiltern main line are being asked to plan their journeys ahead of the Christmas holiday as work takes place to improve passenger journeys.

Over Christmas and New Year Network Rail will be carrying out dozens of projects on its Central route* to improve the reliability of the railway for passengers.

This includes ongoing work to upgrade Birmingham New Street’s signals – the complex system and traffic lights of the railway which keep trains running safely.

Until June 2022, the busiest interchange station in the country will have its 1960s signalling system upgraded to state-of-the-art technology.

The vital work being carried out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day means no trains will serve the station.

Dave Penney, Network Rail’s Central route director, said: “While much of the railway will be open before and after Christmas I’d still urge people to plan ahead by visiting www.nationalrail.co.uk. Remember to follow government guidelines and wear a face covering when travelling unless you are exempt for medical reasons.

“The essential railway upgrades across the West Midlands, Chiltern main line and beyond will improve performance for passengers and freight and help to play its part in Britain building back better from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our frontline workers have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to maintain and upgrade the railway for those who need it. This festive period will be no different, with hundreds of workers out delivering significant improvements across the Central route, which covers the Chiltern mainline and West Midlands.”

In the North West and Central region - which runs from Euston and Marylebone in London, to Scotland via the West Midlands and North West - £31.3 million is being invested in new track, bridges and overhead electric lines which power trains to improve future journeys.

As part of the government’s Christmas travel plan between 23 and 27 December, some of these upgrades will start slightly later on Christmas Eve to allow more trains to run.

The Government has outlined a series of measures focused on minimising disruption and helping people travel safely over the Christmas period, while urging passengers to plan their journeys carefully, consider quieter routes and where possible book ahead.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the Rail Delivery Group, said:  “Christmas will be unusual for many and rail companies are doing all they can to bring people together during the government’s travel window, but this year more than ever people should not just turn up at a station and hope for the best.

“If people follow the advice to plan ahead and book outward and return reservations for longer journeys, alongside the extra cleaning and better information that are part of our safer travel pledge, everyone should be able to travel with confidence.”

Although the vast majority of the network will be open for business in the run up to Christmas, planning ahead is particularly important for those travelling on Boxing Day when there will be a limited service.

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

Notes to Editors

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

There has not been a standard service on Christmas Day for around 60 years, and no service at all for the last 40 years. There is a limited service on Boxing Day and operators work with Network Rail on a timetable where there is demand from people to travel. Planning the majority of engineering work on both these dates helps to limit the impact on passengers.

*Some of the upgrade work taking place on Network Rail’s Central route

The upgrades between 24 -27 December include:

  • New track in the Stechford station area
  • Ongoing major signalling upgrades at Birmingham New Street station

A small number of journeys could be affected by work taking place outside of the 24-27 December.

These projects are:

  • 29 Dec – 2 Jan: Replacing a railway bridge over the canal near Lapworth between Hatton and Dorridge. Chiltern Railways will run rail replacement buses between Warwick Parkway and Dorridge.
  • 2 Jan – 4 Jan: Track replacement in Cheddington, Buckinghamshire. Trains will still run but on slower speed lines so journeys will take longer.
  • 1 Jan: Track replacement at Wellington Road near Bromsgrove

Coronavirus travel guidance

People should also follow Government guidance around the use of public transport.

Travellers must wear a face covering on train services and any replacement bus services.

Those who fail to do so risk being fined £200. However, some people are exempt, including young children and people with hidden disabilities or breathing difficulties.

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

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 - North West & Central Region
0330 854 0100

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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