East & West Coast Train Trouble Ahead

27 February 2016, 09:00

Railway lines could be shut down throughout the year to enable the network to be upgraded faster, the Transport Secretary has suggested.

Patrick McLoughlin called for "quicker, ambitious plans for major reconstruction", rather than limiting engineering work to times when there are fewer passengers.

Network Rail (NR), which manages Britain's rail tracks and many key stations, closed a number of major lines over Christmas to allow it to carry out work as part of its major investment plan.

But in the annual George Bradshaw address earlier this week, Mr McLoughlin praised the rebuilding of rail infrastructure in Nottingham in the summer of 2013 during which the city's railway station was largely closed for five weeks.

He said:

"Why do we insist on doing engineering works often in winter, at night, over a very long period, rather than putting in place quicker, ambitious plans for major reconstruction with proper alternatives and information for passengers, like the successful project at Nottingham station in 2013?

Now, it is not for a Government minister to spell out in detail what might be done differently. The industry has to look after its customers.

The point is that the industry needs more confidence and more freedom to respond."

A number of lines are being suspended over the four-day Easter period as NR carries out more than 450 separate improvement projects.

For passengers via Stevenage, the East Coast Mainline will have one of the two lines up towards Peterborough closed - meaning changes to services on Easter Saturday and Sunday.

For travelers north of Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes and Northampton, the West Coast Main Line will be closed around Stafford for a flyover to be opened, meaning many services will be diverted via Stoke with increased journey times.

NR chief executive Mark Carne said:

"This Easter our 15,000-strong army of rail workers will be working round the clock to deliver our railway upgrade plan, providing better, more reliable journeys for passengers and businesses across Britain.

I'm acutely conscious that many people want to use the railway during the Easter holidays, but with fewer people travelling by train over this four-day weekend, it is a good time to undertake these massive improvement projects.

The vast majority of services will be unaffected by this programme with over 95% of the network open as normal."