Weekend engineering works?


“Weekend engineering works” – a phrase that makes the blood run cold just when you thought you had that visit to relatives, trip to the seaside or weekend meeting sorted.

This year we will have the triple whammy of weekend engineering works plus Christmas and New Year engineering works. Indeed, it is difficult to find any rail companies that are not announcing some scheduled improvements over the long weekend and through to the New Year.

The people most inconvenienced by these interruptions to service are those without cars, especially those in poverty and the elderly, who perhaps are most in need of a bit of cheer from friends and relations over the Festive Season.

Tim Farron has commented on this:

Christmas train travel looks like it will be an utter nightmare as major lines are set to undergo disruptive engineering works.

This is a time of year when people want to be with family and travel long distances to be with loved ones.

These works threaten to put this at risk and leave passengers stranded on platforms around Christmas for hours.

The government needs to get a grip.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Barry Snelson 31st Oct '16 - 11:53am

    When are you suggesting this work be done?

  • I have cancelled Christmas.

  • Rail improvement work is inconvenient whenever it happens. What is clear is that short term line closures are much more cost effective and a quicker way of completing work rather than a longer series of overnight closures. It is also clear that closing lines at other times of year is even more inconvenient and especially to business and regular commuters, whose numbers are much lower in the peak travel period in the school holiday seasons around Christmas, New Year and Easter.
    A further point I would add, is that another fatal consequence of the Beeching Report was/is that there are often fewer or no available diversionary routes and therefore unpopular road replacement is often needed.

  • Time to privatise Network Rail, and remove the yoke of socialism from our railways.

    More input from G4S and Serco, and less from the RMT and ASLEF please.

  • Stimpson
    State owned Deutsche Bahn still does better.

  • As long as the trains run to Mortlake station I am not too worried.

  • Paul Murray 31st Oct '16 - 3:18pm

    @Manfarang – last time I tried catching a train in Germany (from Munich Hauptbahnhof to Bad Tölz – a bit like going from Waterloo to Woking) there was a replacement bus service. It made me feel quite at home.

  • Without knowing exactly what is happening it’s difficult to comment (I speak as a former train planner). Without detail comment would be cheap populism.

  • Is it now Liberal Democrat policy not to carry out maintenance on the railway? Does it not matter if there are derailments and accidents due to lack of maintenance so long as Tim can get round his rellies without any delays before New Year?

    No one likes delays but everyone (except perhaps Tim) recognises that maintenance work is a necessary evil and has to be done sometime. It is always going to inconvenience someone. Besides which, as liberals, shouldn’t we be instinctively suspicious of the sort of governments that make the trains run on time? This has to be Tim Farron’s silliest pronouncement ever.

  • Morgan Inwood 31st Oct '16 - 10:40pm

    The issue is will Network Rail deliver on time or will there be overruns like Kings Cross back in 2014. In terms of Network Rail more broadly I am going through the Shaw Report which was published back in March yet the Government have yet to provide a formal response for an article here.

  • “State owned Deutsche Bahn still does better.”

    And owns Arriva trains including Children Railways, Crosscountry, Tyne & Wear Metro, Northern Rail etc. The last in that list is truly dreadful, consistently late, grossly overcrowded, and using rolling stock you wouldn’t let livestock travel in. I have little recent experience of the rest. Deutsche Bahn’s UK operations are nothing to be proud of.

    State owned SNCF via Keolis has a share in Thameslink, Southern and Southeastern. That’s worked out well hasn’t it

    On the other hand G4S and Serco aren’t my idea of safe hands, so no thanks.

    Not sure it is Farron’s silliest pronouncement but it does fail to recognise that Christmas is the time when fewest passengers will be impacted so the most sensible time to schedule the work.

  • The costs of closing the rail network down at other times of the year is huge. This isn’t just about doing maintenance to the railways themselves, but I know of a project to provide a much needed pedestrian and cycle bridge over the railway, but certain parts could only be done when the tracks were closed for two consecutive days, which could only be done at Christmas.

    When these works are well planned, and well advertised, it gives people the opportunity to plan their own festive travelling. There were huge problems when the Kings Cross works over-ran, without any proper contingency plan. I know people caught up in those, standing around for hours outside Finsbury Park station, while empty trains left Finsbury Park, because no-one had a plan to move people through the station on and off the trains. It’s remarkable that no-one was hurt, never mind inconvenienced.

  • By failing to state either when he would undertake maintenance or which works he thinks are inessential, Farron’s call on the Governmrnt to ‘get a grip’ – overlooking the fact that such closures have been a regular occurrence for many years, including under the Coaltion – makes him look like a silly , juvenile populist Not for the first time either.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st Nov '16 - 8:35am

    Its always annoying to find that there will be engineering works when you planned to travel. I am often affected by this, as I am a non driver. But engineering does have to carried out some time, and the rail companies are usually very good about providing a bus replacement service, so it is still possible to travel, although the journey may take longer.
    What I think does need to be looked at, is the fact that in most areas there is no transport at all on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, either by rail or bus (This is always the case, and I don’t think it has anything to do with engineering works, which would not be happening on these days). For non drivers who need to travel on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, the only transport available is by taxi, and taxi companies often charge twice their usual rates on these days. There really should be some basic public transport service available every day of the year.

  • nvelope2003 1st Nov '16 - 10:07am

    Railway maintenace work does take place on Christmas Day and Boxing Day as there are no passenger trains on Christmas Day and very few on Boxing Day. National Express operate road coaches on main routes on Christmas Day and an almost normal service on Boxing Day so it is not true that there is no public transport over Christmas. There have been services beween Oxford and London on Christmas Day for some years and also local services in Oxford and a few other towns. The big exception is London where extraordinarily there are no buses or TfL services at all on Christmas Day although apparently this is under review.

  • Stevan Rose
    I still think the railways in Britain should be a state owned enterprise.
    Not perfect but it would be better. Long term investment and planning needed.

  • As a driver this post shows the lack of knowledge and ignorance that politicans have for everyday infastructure. There is currently a pressure to run a 24 hrs 7 day a week train service, but the infastructure is designed and built when railways were deemed to be in terminal decline. So single track etc, simplified signalling etc. We are still living with this legacy to this day. Modifing signallijg especially needs a completw block as every single route, point etc needs to be tested due to the high risk of a wrongside failure, example would be clapham rail crash

  • Julian Heather 1st Nov '16 - 2:34pm

    I wouldn’t mind weekend / Christmas engineering works, if the train companies could actually provide a reliable service in between. Here in Streatham we suffer from a nasty, and an ongoing case of Southern – “Southern is the brand name used by the Govia Thameslink Railway train operating company on the Southern routes of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise”. Grrrhhh !

  • Stevan Rose 1st Nov '16 - 7:00pm

    “I still think the railways in Britain should be a state owned enterprise.”

    A great many of them are. Just not the British state. It’s not the answer though, British Rail was far worse than most current services.

  • nvelope2003 3rd Nov '16 - 9:48am

    It was British Rail that stopped operating on Christmas Day and Boxing day. The private companies who ran the railways before 1948 operated some services every day on the major routes. Maintenance work has to be carried out and it makes sense to do it when not so many people are using trains. It is going to take decades and billions of pounds to bring the system up to a level where trains could be operated 24/7. Is it really justified to do that ? Most main lines are open through the night for freight and a few sleeper or postal trains but even those have to be closed occasionally for major works.

  • nvelope2003 3rd Nov '16 - 9:55am

    Julian Heather: The problems on the Southern Railway are due to the Government requiring reductions in the subsidy and the need for the public sector Network Rail to modernise the track and signalling. Nationalisation would not help as the Government already control the railways. Maybe it would be better if they did not.

  • Stevan Rose
    In he last few days I have been experiencing Southern Railway on a visit to Britain.
    British rail was a nationalized industry. A state owned enterprise can operate as a company which would give it more flexibility on a long term basis. The current franchise system is too flawed.

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