Travellers warned of rail chaos until EASTER amid engineering works

Travellers warned rail chaos will continue until EASTER: Commuters already facing disruption from strikes will only enjoy 15 DAYS without engineering works on crucial routes

  • Major engineering works are taking place to ‘level-up’ the north of England
  • Only 15 days of uninterrupted travel are scheduled in the region until April
  • It comes amid strikes which are set to cause further misery for passengers 

The UK must brace for further rail chaos amidst looming Christmas strikes as planned engineering works mean passengers will see only 15 days of normal service between now and April.

Between Christmas and Easter there will be disruption due to engineering works on key northern routes every day – except for just two weeks.

This includes on the busiest rail line in the north of England which amounted 137 million passengers the year prior to the pandemic. The line runs 76 miles from Manchester to York, via Leeds and Huddersfield. 

Much of the disruption will be caused by a Crossrail-style project in the north of England which will deliver a fully-electrified Transpennine Route while doubling the number of tracks from two to four.

 Much of the disruption will be caused by a Crossrail-style project in the north of England on the Transpennine Route

The Transpennine Express railway operator is one of those most affected by the upcoming works

‘This is full-scale open heart surgery on a patient that is running a marathon,’ Rob McIntosh, the eastern region managing director for Network Rail told The Sunday Times.

This is the first step in one of the largest National Rail upgrades in decades and will seek to ‘level-up’ the north of England by making cities more accessible to one another. 

Passengers will see a three-day closure near Leeds on New Year’s Eve, followed by a nine-day blockade from February 4 between Huddersfield and Leeds. The most disruptive suspension will affect stations between Huddersfield and Manchester from March 11 to April 6. 

Trains run by TransPennine Express, Northern CrossCountry, Grand Central, LNER and freight operators will be affected.

Avanti West Coast will also face disruption in March due to upgrade works on the Carstairs junction south of Glasgow, which will close the line from March 4 to 20.

There are also fears of further planned strike action in England by rail unions such as the RMT, run by Mick Lynch.

Strikes will take place on Christmas Eve until December 27, then again on January 3-4 and again on January 6-7. 

This week it was announced that the first electric lines had been laid for the Transpennine upgrades between Church Fenton and Colton Junction, where trains from Leeds join the East Coast Main Line into York. 

According to Network Rail, this is one of the busiest stretches of railway in the north, with over 100 trains using the line each day.

Electric and hybrid trains will run up to 30mph faster with the new lines, which will enable them to travel at speeds up to 125mph.

Misery on the M25 at Dartford on Friday as people tried to get away for the start of the Christmas break

A traveller walks through the concourse during a rail workers’ strike over pay and terms, at Paddington Station in London

Mick Lynch on the picket line as over 40,000 rail workers begin 48 hour strike after talks failed to resolve a dispute over pay, jobs, and conditions this week

Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail’s Eastern region said: ‘We’ve reached a major milestone on our journey to bring cleaner, greener trains to the north and deliver a better railway which people can rely on.

‘Our teams in York and Manchester are working in tandem to electrify sections of the route and will eventually connect to unlock faster, more frequent services and help passengers get to where they need to be, on time.’

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: ‘Our multi-billion pound Transpennine Route upgrade will transform journeys for passengers across the North of England, with faster, more frequent services and improved accessibility.

‘This is the first major milestone on the way to a fully electrified route between York, Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester, which will reduce journey times and save 87,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.’

In a statement released on their website, a spokesperson for the Transpennine Route Upgrade said: ‘When complete across the full 70-mile route across the Pennines, rail passengers will be helping to save up to 87,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year – the equivalent to 5.9 million car journeys along the same route. 

‘For people living near the railway, it will also mean better air quality and quieter trains.’

Elsewhere, there is also planned engineering works on the Isle of Wight until April 2023 while ‘major’ projects take place, meaning no trains will run.

Planned upgrades to the West Coast line also means passengers will face disruption across the country from Christmas until March.

This is most notably the case for journeys operated by Avanti West Coast trains.

It comes as further strikes this week by members of the RMT spell the beginning of a disrupted festive period.

On Friday Mick ‘The Grinch’ Lynch was accused of wrecking the start of the Christmas getaway as hardworking Brits struggled to travel to end-of-year work celebrations due to the crippling rail strikes.

Businesses also suffered from the severe lack of footfall on ‘Black Eye Friday’ – traditionally the busiest night of the year for Christmas parties – because people were stuck at home, as pubs, clubs and restaurants were expected to lose billions due to mass cancellations this week.

Congestion was also up in major cities as people were forced into their cars after train services were shut down by the RMT Union for the second day running in action lasting into January.

The RMT is coming under increasing pressure in England after it managed to secure deals with devolved governments in Scotland and Wales – but Mr Lynch insists the UK government has not offered anything new for workers in England. 

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