Rail firm warns passengers to add an hour for journeys through York

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The Independent Online

Passengers intending to use the east coast main line between King's Cross and Edinburgh via York should add an extra hour to the scheduled travelling time for the foreseeable future, Great North Eastern Railways said yesterday.

Passengers intending to use the east coast main line between King's Cross and Edinburgh via York should add an extra hour to the scheduled travelling time for the foreseeable future, Great North Eastern Railways said yesterday.

This extra hour does not include the delays caused by speed restrictions that have been in place since the Hatfield crash in October. In recent weeks those delays had been reduced to 20 or 30 minutes on the scheduled journey time between London and Edinburgh.

The section of track between Doncaster and York where yesterday's crash happened will be closed for at least a week and a bus shuttle service will be operated to connect the two places. The estimated bus journey time is 40 minutes, although it will be subject to the vagaries of traffic.

Although the London to Edinburgh journey will take longer, trains will run at their usual frequency and passengers wishing to travel are advised to adhere to the scheduled timetable.

Travellers to Wakefield and Leeds will find their journey times unaffected because the section of the track that is shut is located after the divergence of the Leeds branch. Passengers wishing to avoid the bus connection can travel to Leeds and get a train to York via a different line - although it will take longer.

After the Hatfield disaster it took three weeks to return the stretch of track to "normal service". However, Railtrack is optimistic that the "recovery" phase of the clear-up - which will begin as soon as the emergency services have left the area - will take less time because the crash site at Great Heck, near Selby, is unlikely to be viewed as a potential "crime scene". As a result, the police will not need to spend so much time gathering evidence for a possible prosecution.

A Railtrack spokeswoman said the company would not be able to give a reliable estimate of how long it would take to reopen the line until all the crash debris had been removed from the area and engineers were able to examine the track.

She said: "We already have cranes near the site. But the situation is complicated by the bad weather and engineers need to have a good look around to make sure the area can sustain all that heavy machinery. The ground is very wet at the moment and from an engineering perspective it is very challenging because it is not very solid."

Although the closed section of the track has not been replaced since the Hatfield crash, it was shut for 10 days in November because of flooding. GNER used the same re-routing system for passengers during that closure that it is using now.

Great Heck is about 150 miles north of Hatfield on the same east coast main line. In the post-Hatfield repair programme, the east coast route has had the most stretches of track where rails have been replaced and speed restrictions have been imposed.

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