UK rolling back the years with midweek engineering
It’s back to the future for Network Rail. The national infrastructure agency is carrying out mid-week engineering trials in the northeast of England in an operation not seen for decades. Passenger travel patterns have radically altered since the pandemic, and now with demand soaring at the weekend, staging operations over Saturdays and Sundays is proving significantly more disruptive than prior to 2020.
Rail customers, particularly passengers in the North East, are being urged to check before travelling as the next phase of Network Rail’s mid-week engineering trials take place in the region. On Wednesday, 21 June, teams from Network Rail will be carrying out vital track upgrades on the route between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed. It’s the first time this century that engineering works have been planned for weekdays instead of weekend possessions.
Fridays and Sundays now most popular days
The work will see improvements made to the track near Longhirst level crossing, near Morpeth, and at Widdrington, just south of Alnmouth. The work will help to create a more modern and reliable railway for all traffic and help to keep train services running smoothly. The work is taking place mid-week as recent data from the principal passenger operator on the section, LNER, shows that Fridays and Sundays are now proving to be the most popular days for people to travel on long-distance, high-speed services to and from London King’s Cross.
To reflect this new pattern for rail travel, Network Rail will be carrying out this work on a Wednesday, as opposed to on a weekend, to reduce disruption for passengers and impact fewer travellers. Both locations are on the East Coast Main line, where the formation is a pair of tracks and little else. To allow the work to take place safely, there will be major changes to services on Wednesday 21 June, as well as minor changes on the evening of Tuesday 20 June and in the early morning on Thursday 22 June.
Freight traffic largely deferred
Road transport will replace the majority of passenger rail services between Newcastle and Berwick-upon-Tweed and intermediate stations. LNER services will run between London King’s Cross and Newcastle, and then between Alnmouth and Scottish destinations, with a bus transfer inbetween. A small number of services will be able to use a diversionary route between Newcastle and Edinburgh, which involves an east-west trek to Carlisle and then via the recently reopened West Coast Main Line to Edinburgh. It is likely that freight traffic will be largely deferred to paths outwith the engineering possession. Capacity for diverted traffic is limited and campaigners have once again pointed to the lack of a through connection via the Scottish Borders.
“It is fantastic to see the next phase of mid-week engineering trials get underway on the East Coast Main Line”, said Jason Parrish, Head of Planning for Network Rail’s East Coast Route. “These trials are being carried out after research showed that there is a higher demand for travel on weekends to and from London King’s Cross station. By doing this work on a weekday, it will mean fewer passengers are impacted by these major upgrades.”