More weekend closures on East Anglia’s main rail line to London
PUBLISHED: 16:51 20 December 2017
East Anglia will have no thorough trains to London at weekends again for the first three months of 2018 as Network Rail engineers return to install new track and overhead lines on the route to Liverpool Street.
The news comes at the end of a year which will eventually have seen 24 weekends with no through rail services to London – in 2016 there were 22 weekends with no through services.
There will be no through weekend trains from the region to the capital in February and March – and no through Sunday services after January 14.
The disruption will continue until the long Easter weekend – March 30 to April 2 – after which no firm plans have been made by Network Rail.
However a spokeswoman for the infrastructure company said there was likely to be disruption during the two bank holiday weekends at the beginning and end of May as engineers worked to complete the line improvements before the start of Crossrail services on the new Elizabeth Line at the end of 2018.
When lines are closed, trains will finish at Ingatestone or Witham with a bus link to the Central Line tube station at Newbury Park – a move which adds at least 30 minutes to any journey to London.
Network Rail says it is now about to start the final year of work upgrading the track and overhead wires – many of which date from the 1950s.
It says the new equipment should be more reliable and will allow trains to continue whatever the weather conditions – at present trains have to slow down when it is very hot.
Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “This work is crucial to improving rail travel in the East Anglia region, to provide more reliable services and improved connections across London.
“The number of people travelling by rail continues to grow and this investment programme forms a key part of our Railway Upgrade Plan to support this demand. I’d like to thank passengers for their patience while we carry out this work.”
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: “This work is vital for the modernisation of the railway in East Anglia, which both Network Rail and Greater Anglia, are committed to.
“We appreciate that engineering work is inconvenient to customers who would rather stay on the train for the whole of their journey. I would like to reassure people that we will make sure they can still complete their journeys, even if part of it is by bus.”
Rail chairman Quince hopes for better service
Colchester MP Will Quince is chairman of the East Anglian Rail Taskforce – and said he understood the frustration that would be felt by many travellers who wanted to head to London.
But he also accepted the need for Network Rail to carry out the work.
He said: “The fact is that we knew there were two major issues that needed to be addressed to improve services in this region.
“We needed to get new trains – something that is being addressed by Greater Anglia – and there needed to be improvements to the track and infrastructure.
“That is being addressed by Network Rail because the infrastructure was getting old and outdated – but it does cause a lot of disruption while the work is taking place.
“People do feel cut off by this work and they are put off making weekend trips – but hopefully once the work is all completed by the end of next year we will have a more reliable service.”
More rail strikes on the way
Another three one-day strikes by Greater Anglia conductor/guards have been called by their union, the RMT – but the company says passengers should not be affected.
The union had already announced that its guards would be on strike on December 27. It has now called on them to stop work on January 8, 10, and 12.
The dispute is about the issue of the conductor/guards’ role on trains – specifically whether it should be them or drivers who operate automatic doors.
Richard Dean from Greater Anglia said: “We are very disappointed that the RMT has announced three more strike days. We will be running our full Christmas service as planned next Wednesday, and intend to run a full service on January 8, 10 and 12.”
A Christmas timetable starts on Saturday and runs through until January 1 with buses providing a rail link from Ingatestone to Newbury Park while the rail line is closed for engineering work.