Weekend rail passengers face 10 weeks of misery as engineers move in

Network Rail engineers upgrading the track and electric wires near Shenfield over Christmas and the

Network Rail engineers upgrading the track and electric wires near Shenfield over Christmas and the New Year. - Credit: Archant

The main rail line between East Anglia and London is to be closed for 10 weekends from early February to the middle of April.

The line will be shut at Shenfield from February 6/7 every weekend until Easter Weekend, when it will be close for four days from March 25-28.

Trains will run as far as Ingatestone, from where there will be a bus link to the Central Line station at Newbury Park – a similar arrangement to that seen over the Christmas holiday.

On the first two weekends of April engineers will shift their attention to the line near Ingatestone. Trains will run as far as Chelmsford from where there will be a bus link to Billericay station.

It is the second year running that Network Rail engineering work has cut off the region from the capital – last winter the line was closed for seven weekends to allow track rebuilding in the Colchester area.

A spokesman for the state-owned company said there was never a good time to close the railway, but it was vital to carry out the rail improvement plan to pave the way for the Crossrail project and improve reliability on the main line.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, a leading member of the Great Eastern Taskforce, said he was “exasperated” by Network Rail – and said the latest news would have a serious effect on the tourist industry in the region and East Anglian residents.

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He is due to meet the new chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, and the Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin in the near future and would be bringing up the issue.

Mr Gummer said: “Sir Peter is very good and he did a very good job in London(as commissioner of Transport for London), but there are serious issues still to be tackled at Network Rail, and this kind of thing is quite unacceptable.”

A spokesman for Abellio Greater Anglia said: “We will be working with Network Rail and doing all we can to provide passengers with the best possible alternative service during the weekends when improvement works on the mainline route are taking place.

“Passengers travelling during this time are advised to check their journey details in advance. We apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused by these service alterations.”

Mark Pendlington, Co-chair of the Great Eastern Taskforce said: “Yet again travellers across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk have got to face more travel disruption.

“Network Rail say this work includes improvements to over-head lines to safeguard against similar disruption in the future. The patience of the travelling public is wearing thin.

“We will support improvement work delivered on time and with passengers offered efficient alternative transport when absolutely necessary. But make no mistake, our goodwill is being stretched to the limit and there is absolutely no margin for error.”