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Network Rail prepares for biggest ever Christmas upgrade

The largest Christmas upgrade in Network Rail history is about to begin with over 20,000 members of staff due to work across the network over the festive period.

From Christmas Eve to 2 January Network Rail staff will be working on vital projects like the £85m investment programme across the Great Western mainline from Cardiff to London Paddington, work on Crossrail’s western and eastern sections and on the Ordsall Chord.

Many members of staff are due to sacrifice their Christmas Day and Boxing Day for the works, one being manager Dave Kidd who will be managing 35 people over Royal Wootton Bassett’s  A3102 Bath Road bridge which is scheduled for demolition works.

“It’s very important that we do have that commitment from staff –  as sometimes it’s hard to fill the shifts with the right quality personnel,” Kidd said.

“However it is important we work over Christmas, mainly because the tracks are shut. The trains are not running so if we do the work during this particular period then there’s less disruption to the public, and we don’t have to block the lines at some other time and cause more inconvenience.”

One project due to be completed is the final phase of the Cardiff Area Signalling Renewals project, the £300m renewal and enhancement scheme taking place as part of the modernisation of the Cardiff and the Valleys Network.

The grand finale of the Cardiff renewals project will be the launch of the new platform at Cardiff Central station which will formally open on 3 January.

“This is the final and most complex phase of the project to be commissioned and all the equipment that our teams and contractors have been working hard to install will be brought into use. The team has been working tirelessly in preparation for the final phase of this scheme which commences on Christmas Eve,” said signalling scheme project manager Zoe O’Brien.

“Christmas Eve is like the start of a marathon for us but the feeling of achievement on completion of all the upgrade work will make it worthwhile.”

Network Rail has advised passengers to plan their journeys ahead of Christmas and New Year as some stations and services will be closed during the works, such as Manchester Oxford Road.

The scale of the work has led to fears of a reprise of Christmas 2014 where over-running engineering works at King’s Cross and Paddington left thousands of commuters stranded, leaving Network Rail to be probed by the Transport Select Committee.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne defended the engineering plans, saying: “We’re making every effort that we can with our train operating colleagues to run the services in the best way that we can.”

Passengers can find a breakdown of how their journeys may be affected over the festive period by visiting and following #ChristmasWorks on Twitter.

(Image c. Network Rail)

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Manchester Mike   23/12/2016 at 18:54

Thank you to all the rail workers and supervisors who work through the Holidays so our travel is better the rest of the year and thereafter!

Andrew Gwilt   23/12/2016 at 22:52

Not to mention the Southend Victoria line that Network Rail are doing overhead wiring works to replace the older overhead wires.

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