Christmas on track: thousands of Network Rail staff to spend the holiday working on railway upgrades

Christmas on track: thousands of Network Rail staff to spend the holiday working on railway upgrades

Lucy Middleton Scheme Project Manager .(Network Rai l Image.)

This Christmas, while most of us will be exchanging presents and spending time with families, 25,000 railway workers will be carrying out a major £148 million upgrade of Britain’s railway.

That includes numerous projects all the way up the route between London Euston and Carlisle, as part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan.

Scheme project manager Lucy Middleton is among the 25,000 people spending the holidays trackside rather than fireside.

Lucy will be working on the ongoing upgrade to track and platforms at 58 stations across the Merseyrail network, ready for Merseytravel’s new trains which arrive in 2020.

Her role this Christmas is to monitor and report progress on site while ensuring that the work is delivered safely and on time.

Lucy said: “I have been working at Network Rail for nine years, but this is only my second Christmas working on site. Luckily my partner also works for Network Rail so he understands.

“Our families are great and have agreed to have our Christmas Day on a different day, I think they’re quite happy actually as they get two Christmas dinners!”

Over the festive period the Merseyrail work means closing the line from Birkenhead Park Station to James Street Station, with the Liverpool Loop line also closed. Rail replacement buses will be in operation between Thursday 27 December and Thursday 3 January.

It’s all to make the station platforms ready so they can meet the state-of-the-art trains’ sliding step – providing step free access while boarding.

Lucy added: “The work involved keeps me very busy but I do really enjoy my job. The project has been in construction since October 2018 and is ongoing until June 2019 – I’m already looking forward to taking a long holiday in July!”

The Merseyrail work is just one of many projects on the London North Western route this Christmas and New Year, including:

On Merseyside:

  • Signalling upgrades as part of the Weaver to Wavertree resignalling project: between 9.15pm on Monday 24 December and 12.30am on Wednesday 2 January. Signalling areas in Allerton, Speke and Garston are being recontrolled to the Manchester Rail Operating Centre. The upgrades will enable more reliable journeys and boost capacity in the area. During the work rail replacement buses will run between Runcorn and Liverpool South Parkway. It will also mean changes to some services to/from Liverpool Lime Street.

In Milton Keynes, the West Midlands and London:

  • Track renewal at Milton Keynes Central station: between 9pm on Sunday 23 December and 6am on Friday 28 December. This will mean slightly longer journey times between the West Midlands and London Euston.
  • Lineside drainage improvements near Hampton-in-Arden: from 9pm on Christmas Eve and 6am on Thursday 27 December on the line between Birmingham International, Coventry and Rugby.
  • Preparation work for HS2 at London Euston: preparatory work will take place in sidings, some lines north of Euston in the Camden area, and on some platforms at Euston station over the Christmas period. Work includes cable laying, removal/installation of overhead line steelwork, and drainage improvement.

In Greater Manchester:

  • Boosting of electrical feeds between Ordsall and Stalybridge: work to install an additional electrical feed which will provide extra resilience to power electric trains in the North West in 2019. 
  • Overhead wire installation at Manchester Victoria: overhead wires will be installed on the eastern lines outside Manchester Victoria station impacting some services during the work.
  • Tunnel cabling work in Ashton-under-Lyne: preparation work will be carried out in the Katherine Street tunnel to enable lineside cables to be laid.
  • Lineside drainage improvements: work will be carried out to upgrade drainage near Ashton-under-Lyne station.

In the Greater Manchester area this work is vital to ensure faster, greener, new electric trains can be welcomed onto the network next year. The work is taking place between 11pm on Christmas Eve and 6pm on New Year’s Day, but the railway isn’t entirely closed during this time. Passengers are being advised to check before they travel to see how this essential work may impact on journeys.

Martin Frobisher, London North Western route managing director, said: “The railway is traditionally much quieter than usual during the festive period so taking on and delivering these bigger pieces of work at this time, as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan, means we will cause the least inconvenience to the fewest number of people.

“While the majority of the network is open as usual, some routes will be affected so I would urge passengers to plan their journeys and check before they travel for the latest information.”

The upgrade work on the London North Western route and Great North Rail Project is part of Network Rail’s £50 billion five-year Railway Upgrade Plan, which is the biggest investment in the railway since Victorian times.

In some parts of the country, work will begin on Sunday 23 December this year to give engineers three clear days to make uninterrupted progress on vital projects.

A breakdown of how journeys will be affected can be found by visiting nationalrail.co.uk/Christmas and following #XmasRailWorks on Twitter.

Find out more about Merseyrail projects: www.merseytravel.gov.uk/itshappening.

Find out more about projects in the Liverpool City Region: www.networkrail.co.uk/lcr.

For the latest travel information visit www.nationalrail.co.uk