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Ellie Taylor & Anna Whitehouse 10pm - 1am
25 September 2012, 07:39 | Updated: 29 September 2012, 07:24
We're being told we'll see better weekend rail services in East Anglia from 2013.
Network Rail and Greater Anglia have together agreed to reduce the amount of planned disruptive engineering work and need for bus replacement services this Christmas and at weekends in 2013.
For the first time in many years, there will only be minor disruption during the Christmas and New Year period, with no complete line closures, enabling passengers to make uninterrupted journeys over the festive holiday.
Under the new improvement works schedule for 2013, only two Saturdays on the main line are affected by any bus journeys, and there are no bus replacements from the end of March until early October.
The decision is the result of an alliance between Network Rail and Greater Anglia to provide an improved train service and achieve a better balance between delivering infrastructure improvements and minimising disruption to passengers.
Dave Ward, Network Rail route managing director for Anglia, said: "In the last few years, we have done a huge amount of work investing millions of pounds to renew crucial parts of this line to benefit passengers for years to come. We are now in a position to change how we deliver these improvements.This change will bring real benefits to passengers providing them with a better weekend train service.
We expect it will have a positive impact on the whole region, boosting economic growth as more people use the railway at weekends. There is still a huge amount of work to do to improve things further but we have found a much better balance, which I hope passengers will welcome."
Ruud Haket, Greater Anglia managing director, said: "I am delighted that our positive partnership and alliance with Network Rail, which is a key element of the Greater Anglia franchise, has enabled us to take a fresh look at the scheduling of infrastructure works to put passenger needs first whilst maintaining important improvements. As a result, our customers will benefit from more seamless weekend services, which will encourage more people to take the train, boosting the region's economy."
Network Rail has upgraded complex parts of the line between Liverpool Street and Chelmsford in the last five years, which often required weekend closures. Part of this work included identifying and replacing 6,000 key pieces of equipment ahead of the Olympics, which will increase the long-term resilience of the line. Coupled with new technology being developed that has not previously been available to renew overhead lines, this increased resilience enabled Network Rail to review the improvement works programme.
Since 2007, there have been on average 30 weekends a year requiring bus replacement services. In 2013, there will be seven weekends of planned disruptive engineering work.
Essential overnight work will still take place on other weekends, meaning that some very late night Saturday, early Sunday morning and very late Sunday journeys may involve buses, but any disruption to passengers will be limited. As well as the overhead line upgrade, Network Rail will also be carrying out essential track renewal and freight upgrades to take lorries off the road.
There will be three weekends where main line and metro services will terminate at Stratford because of track renewal and Crossrail work, outside Liverpool Street. This will not involve buses - passengers can continue their journeys using London Underground services between Liverpool Street and Stratford.