Works in the UK by Network Rail (Photo: Network Rail)

May bank holiday works proceed in Great Britain

Works in the UK by Network Rail (Photo: Network Rail)

In addition to the upcoming coronation of King Charles III on 6 May 2023, and the start of the Eurovision song contest on 7 May 2023, travellers in the United Kingdom will also have to take into account a myriad of works taking place on the British rail network. Network Rail, which operates and develops Britain’s railway infrastructure, will be taking advantage of the bank holidays to upgrade essential infrastructure and urges passengers to plan ahead carefully.

Wigan and Bolton

Major infrastructure works are underway on the 6.5-mile stretch of railway between Wigan and Bolton, with a six-day railway closure starting from this Saturday, to facilitate the electrification of the line. Network Rail’s 78-million-pound investment will allow for cleaner, greener electric trains to serve the key North West towns in the future. Preparations are being made for the installation of high-voltage overhead electricity cables, including alterations to 17 railway structures along the route. Work on one of these structures, the Ladies Lane bridge in Hindley began in March when the road was closed.

The upcoming closure will allow engineers to safely work on the tracks without trains running. Replacement buses will run between Wigan North Western, Westhoughton, Daisy Hill, Ince and Lostock during this period, but passengers are being advised to allow extra time for their journeys and to check National Rail Enquiries to plan their travel in advance. While the closure may cause some inconvenience, the electrification upgrade promises a smoother and more sustainable journey for passengers in the future.

Midland Main Line

Passengers travelling on the Midland Main Line and Derwent Valley Line in the East Midlands are advised to plan ahead as significant changes to services will be implemented from May 27 to June 11. Two tunnels, Clay Cross tunnel and Milford tunnel will undergo track renewal work, resulting in reduced service between Sheffield and London and extended journey times. Rail replacement buses will replace trains between Derby and Matlock during this period. Additionally, on May 31 and June 3, the ASLEF union will be striking, which will affect EMR and CrossCountry services.

Clay Cross tunnel, built 183 years ago, is over a mile long and connects Sheffield to London. Upgrades will be made to the historic tunnel, including the replacement of sleepers and ballast, the installation of specially coated rails under ten tunnel shafts, and improved drainage. Similarly, Milford tunnel will undergo a complete track upgrade, replacing over a mile of ballast. A total of 52 engineering trains will be used, and 16,107 tonnes of ballast will be installed. Any excavated poor-quality ballast, known as “spoil,” will be recycled at Network Rail’s Whitemoor facility for use on roads and building sites.

Neil Grabham, Customer Services Director for EMR, said fewer Intercity services would be available to Derby, Chesterfield, and Sheffield, and journey times would be extended. Rail replacement buses will be in place on the Derwent Valley Line, except on the ASLEF strike days. CrossCountry trains will divert via an alternative route, with an additional 60 minutes added to the journey time. John Robson, Regional Director in the East Midlands and East Anglia for CrossCountry, advised passengers to plan ahead, allow extra time for their journeys, and check the website for updates on the strike days.

Works in the UK by Network Rail (Photo: Network Rail)
Works in the UK by Network Rail (Photo: Network Rail)

In the rearview mirror

Network Rail has completed a range of essential upgrades to the railway between London Euston, the Midlands, North West and Scotland over the early May bank holiday. Railway teams worked tirelessly between Saturday 29 April and Tuesday 2 May to improve passenger and freight services on the West Coast main line. After some sections of track were closed, engineers quickly and safely carried out major improvements over the bank holiday weekend, allowing trains to resume on Tuesday 2 May.

This 14.5-million-pound investment by Network Rail’s North West and Central region included upgrades to track foundations in several areas, improvements to overhead lines, platform extensions, signalling work, and ongoing construction of a new Merseyrail station. The upgrades are aimed at making the railway system more resilient during hot weather and ensuring smoother, faster journeys for passengers and freight services.

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Author: Emma Dailey

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