Britain must prepare for further rail chaos amid the upcoming Christmas strike as planned engineering works mean passengers will only see 15 days of normal service between now and April.
There will be disruption due to engineering works on major northern routes every day between Christmas and Easter – except for two weeks.
It also includes the busiest rail line in the north of England, which carried 137 million passengers in the year before the pandemic. The line runs 76 miles from Manchester to York via Leeds and Huddersfield.
Most of the disruption will be caused by a Crossrail-style project in the north of England that will provide a fully electrified transPennine route, doubling the number of tracks from two to four.
A Crossrail-style project in the north of England on the TransPennine route would cause much disruption
Railway operator Transpennine Express is one of those most affected by the upcoming works
Rob McIntosh, managing director of Network Rail’s eastern region, told The Sunday Times: ‘This is full-scale open heart surgery on a patient running a marathon.’
It is the first step in one of the biggest national rail upgrades in decades and will seek to ‘level-up’ the north of England by making cities more accessible to each other.
Commuters will see a three-day closure near Leeds on New Year’s Eve, followed by a nine-day blockade between Huddersfield and Leeds from 4 February. The most disruptive suspension will affect stations between Huddersfield and Manchester from 11 March to 6 April.
Trains operated by TransPennine Express, Northern CrossCountry, Grand Central, LNER and freight operators will be affected.
Avanti West Coast will also face disruption in March due to upgrade works at Carstairs Junction, south of Glasgow, which will close the line from 4 to 20 March.
There are also fears of further planned strike action in England by rail unions such as the RMT run by Mick Lynch.
There will be strikes on Christmas Eve until December 27, then on January 3–4, and again on January 6–7.
This week it was announced that the first power lines for the TransPennine upgrade have been laid between Church Fenton and Colton Junction, where trains from Leeds connect to the East Coast Main Line at York.
According to Network Rail, it is one of the busiest sections of the railway in the north, with over 100 trains using the line daily.
Electric and hybrid trains will run at 30 mph along the new lines, allowing them to travel at speeds of up to 125 mph.
Grief on the M25 in Dartford on Friday as people try to get away for the start of the Christmas holiday
A passenger walks through a crowd during a strike by rail workers over pay and conditions at Paddington station in London
More than 40,000 rail workers begin a 48-hour strike this week after failing to resolve a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, at the Mick Lynch picket line
Rob McIntosh, Managing Director of Network Rail’s Eastern Region, said: ‘We have reached a major milestone on our journey to bring cleaner, greener trains to the North and deliver a better railway that people can count on.
‘Our teams in York and Manchester are working together to electrify sections of the route that will eventually connect to unlock faster, more frequent services and help passengers get where they need to be on time Will do.
Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: ‘Our multi-billion pound transpennine route upgrade will transform travel for commuters in the north of England with faster, more frequent services and better access.
‘This is the first major milestone on the way to a fully electrified route between York, Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester, which will reduce journey times and save 87,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year.’
In a statement released on their website, a spokesman for the Transpennine Route Upgrade said: ‘By completing the full 70-mile route across the Pennines, rail passengers will help save 87,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year – the equivalent of 5.9 million cars travels by way of
‘For people living near the railway, it will also mean better air quality and quieter trains.’
Elsewhere, there is also planned engineering work on the Isle of Wight until April 2023 while ‘major’ projects are underway, meaning no trains will run.
Planned upgrades to the West Coast line also mean passengers will face disruption across the country from Christmas until March.
This is particularly the case for trips operated by Avanti West Coast Trains.
It comes as another attack by RMT members this week marks the start of a period of disrupted festivities.
On Friday Mick ‘The Grinch’ Lynch was accused of ruining the start of a Christmas getaway as hardworking Brits struggled to travel in celebration of the end of the year due to crippling rail strikes.
Businesses were also hit by a huge lack of footfall on ‘Black Eye Friday’ – traditionally the busiest night of the year for Christmas parties – as people were stuck at home, as pubs, clubs and restaurants were hit by mass cancellations. Due to this billions were expected to be lost. week.
Major cities were also overcrowded as people were forced into their cars after the RMT union shut down train services for a second day in action in January.
The RMT has come under increasing pressure in England since it managed to strike a deal with the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales – but Mr Lynch says the UK government has offered nothing new for workers in England.