Trains on Christmas and Boxing Day: Paddington deserted as great rail shutdown begins

Key London stations already closed, with some remaining suspended until the New Year

Christmas break: Paddington station in London is closed until 28 December
Christmas break: Paddington station in London is closed until 28 December

At Paddington station in London, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s statue is presiding over a railway terminus that is almost deserted.

On a normal Sunday, around 50,000 passengers would be travelling to and from the West of England and South Wales. But with no trains arriving or leaving until next Thursday, the only activity is a trickle of foreign tourists unaware of the closure and desperate to reach Heathrow.

The closure of the line between Paddington and Slough is one of 260 projects in Network Rail’s biggest-ever Christmas engineering programme. The work involves 32,600 staff and is costing £160m.

Passengers at Paddington are being asked to use South Western Railway services from Waterloo to Reading, and trains on a circuitous route from Marylebone via the Chilterns and Oxford to Bath and beyond. Paddington will reopen on Thursday, but disruption will continue until the end of the year.

On the other side of the capital, at Liverpool Street station, the main line to Shenfield in Essex and onwards to Suffolk and Norfolk is closed right though to 2 January. And for passengers south of the capital, three key stations are also closed until the New Year: Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

Elsewhere in Britain, the main line north from Southampton Central is closed for the rest of the year, with bus replacement services adding up to an hour to journey times.

In the West Midlands, the main link between Birmingham New Street and Wolverhampton via Sandwell and Dudley is closed until 2 January.

A 20-mile stretch of the West Coast Main Line between Preston and Lancaster will be closed until 28 December, with trains on 24 and 27 December replaced by a bus shuttle between the two stations.

Network Rail says: “Even though it might seem strange to carry out work at Christmas – when people are travelling to see friends and family – on average, around half the usual five million people travel by train each day during the Christmas period.”

On the 95 per cent of the rail network which is open, services start to run down from the afternoon of Christmas Eve: the last Edinburgh to London train is at 4.20pm. No trains will run on Christmas Day, and only a handful on Boxing Day.

National Express will be running 50 per cent more coaches on 25 December than last year, and Megabus is also planning its biggest-ever Christmas. Megabus is running buses every two hours from London to Bristol from 8am to 8pm.

No other major European country shuts down its trains over Christmas; in France and Germany, long-distance services will be running as normal, with some reductions in local trains.

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