IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS carried out over the Christmas and New Year holiday period represented a £111 million investment in the network. Some 386 projects were worked on by 20,500 NR engineering staff at a time when the railway traditionally takes advantage of the holiday closures to carry out upgrades.

A full closure of the Midland main line between Bedford and Market Harborough between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day enabled NR to progress the line’s upgrade, including electrification and installation of a fourth track between Sharnbrook and Kettering. Network Rail said the extra track would ‘come fully into use at the next December timetable change (alongside all MML upgrade benefits and new East Midlands Railway long-distance timetable) but will be used by freight and for resilience after the final commissioning’ over the weekend of 4-5 January 2020.

The East Coast upgrade was also progressed, with tunnel and structure work, drainage inspection and overhead line upgrades at King’s Cross completed. At Leeds the focus was on work to build a new platform 0, which is due to come into use at the end of 2021.

On the Western, Paddington station was shut between 24 and 27 December as NR carried out track renewals, switch and crossing and overhead line works east of Slough, while a closure between Bristol Parkway and Cardiff enabled energisation of the overhead wires to the Welsh capital.

Projects on the West Coast main line included continuation of preparatory work for HS2 at Euston and work on overhead wire stanchions at Bletchley as a precursor to East West Rail, which will cross the line on a new flyover. Schemes in Anglia included rerailing and track maintenance work in the Liverpool Street and Bethnal Green area and installation of new overhead wires at Wickford on the Southend Victoria line.

South of the Thames a key focus was switch and crossing renewal at Ashford International, with renewal of drainage, six sets of points and all the track at the end of platforms 3 to 6. In south east London work continued on an £81 million scheme to install new signalling on lines through Hither Green.