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Behind the headlines

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Overrunning works at King’s Cross and serious capacity problems at London Bridge were eagerly seized upon by the press. The conventional London-centric media chose to largely ignore the multi-site national miracle wrought by 11,000 railway staff hard at work from Christmas Eve into the New Year.

Whilst the UK all but closed down for the 12 days of Christmas, railway technical staff, drivers, engineers, fitters and contractors worked round the clock at more than 2,000 locations as the pace of re-investment in Britain’s ageing infrastructure picks up.

Network Rail has published the highlights of the huge £200 million investment programme carried out at Christmas which include:

London Bridge

As part of the £6.5 billion Thameslink programme, London Bridge saw two new platforms opened and new track laid as the project moves to the next stage of the biggest station redevelopment that London has ever seen.

New signalling has successfully been installed on the New Cross Gate to Sydenham corridor and also in South London near Bermondsey allowing resumption of planned Southern and London Overground passenger services. Work to replace tracks at the entrance to the Hornsey Depot in North London has also been completed. This means that Govia Thameslink can resume operation of its planned service on the Great Northern route;


One of the last pieces of the jigsaw to unblock the notorious train bottleneck around Reading station has been finished with the completion of a newly built viaduct to the west of the station;

West Coast main line

The latest phase of upgrade work at Watford, Norton Bridge and Stafford was completed. Work took place at Watford to install new sections of railway and commission a new signalling system. A major bottleneck at Stafford and Norton Bridge has been unblocked.

Engineers carried out essential bridge and track work at Norton Bridge and renewed the signals and overhead lines at Stafford;

East Coast main line

Between London King’s Cross and Peterborough more than 1,000 people worked to complete 13 different projects to deliver significant improvements to the rail network at Peterborough, Holloway, Harringay and Canal Tunnels just outside King’s Cross. Further north, projects included bridge improvements in Dewsbury and Newcastle and track improvements near York and on the Doncaster to Leeds line;

Midland main line

On the route serving St Pancras hundreds of people completed projects including signalling alterations for the Thameslink project; the demolition and partial reconstruction of two bridges for the Midland main line electrification project and track improvements between Kettering and Corby and at Toton;


The Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP) team demolished the roof of Carmuirs Tunnel, near Falkirk, and installed a new tunnel over the New Year break.

Signalling was renewed between Haymarket and Inverkeithing and track work was undertaken in Queen Street Tunnel, Glasgow;


Track renewals have been carried out between Stratford and Shenfield and upgrades to the overhead line equipment on the Great Eastern main line has been completed. Two bridges on the Gospel Oak to Barking line have been replaced. At Chadwell Heath work is underway on the eastern section of Crossrail;


A bridge was replaced over the River Teme on the line between Hereford and Shrewsbury. Bridge demolition work was also successfully completed on the South Wales Main Line between Newport and Cardiff as part of electrification works.

As usual behind the sensationalist headlines the vast majority of railway works over the Christmas break were delivered on time, on budget and safely by a dedicated workforce that has yet to receive adequate credit for its stunning achievements.


  1. With regard to the problems at Kings Cross 27th December onwards, i cannot help but wonder how many of the passengers who were inconvenienced by the overrun of the work, were passenger who were long distance passengers, travelling beyond Wakefield and if there were long distance passengers, were they advised to travel via St Pancras to Shefield and get a connecting train to Wakefield or Leeds to connect with a service to York and beyond. If this information was not available, then the T O Cs need to be held to account.

  2. Alan,

    The work at Watford meant that a lot of WCML passengers were already on EMT services into London; warnings about overcrowding around the 27th were posted at EMT stations in the weeks before Christmas. No doubt some EC passengers went via Sheffield, but a mass migration to St Pancras would have just moved the mayhem from one place to another.

    Also, the EC service carries considerably more people than EMT could have carried to Sheffield. The normal Sheffield service is 12 Meridian carriages an hour, some 610 seats/hour (including tip up seats). Just one EC HST has 544 seats (Mallard sets have 535) and there are perhaps five EC departures an hour from Kings Cross on Saturdays. The numbers just don’t work.


  3. Having the line between Oxford and Cambridge open, with the link from Oxford to Didcot would help. Many people from the South West to the North East could then avoid London altogether.

  4. At times like this another missing link that would have helped, is an electric link from Peterborough to Ely and Cambridge, so that something like Great Anglia’s Class 379 could have run a shuttle into Liverpool Street.

    Near where I lived, I watched the replacement of the bridge at South Tottenham. It must have gone as planned, as there hasn’t been a word in the media.


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