Rail passengers warned of disruption on busy Christmas routes because of track closures

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The Independent Online

Rail passengers were warned yesterday of disruption on some of Britain's busiest rail routes over Christmas as Network Rail announced a series of track closures that will see some lines shut for six days.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) said the work would cause "inconvenience for thousands" over the festive period.

A programme of engineering works will close the Great Western main line, the west and east coast main lines and the railway to the Sussex coast in the days after Christmas.

Network Rail said the programme, which includes more than 100 engineering projects while the lines are closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, had been timed to cause minimum disruption. The company said it was an annual practice .

No trains run on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, apart from some services to airports, giving track engineers two days for maintenance work. But some projects will disrupt services until 1 January. The closures this year include the Great Western main line between Taunton and Tiverton from Christmas Day to 30 December. The west coast main line will be closed between Stockport and Manchester on the same days. The west coast main line section between Stafford and Crewe is already closed and will remain so until 1 January.

The east coast main line will be closed at Welwyn Garden City between Christmas Day and 28 December, and the Sussex coast main line will be closed at Clapham Junction from Christmas Day to 27 December.

George Muir, director general of Atoc, said: "The Christmas and New Year period is traditionally a busy time for the railways. It is also a period when major infrastructure works are carried out by Network Rail. "For this reason I advise passengers to make use of the information systems available to them to ensure a comfortable journey and avoid any unnecessary inconvenience."

John Armitt, chief executive of Network Rail, said: "Tens of thousands of railway staff will be hard at work over the festive break, forgoing their Christmas lunch to undertake some massive engineering tasks that will help to deliver a better-performing railway.

"This is the railway's own Christmas tradition of taking advantage of the two-day Christmas break, enabling large quantities of essential work to be carried out whilst causing very little disruption to train services."