On top of all the disruption caused by strikes, rail travellers hoping to head to London for weekend trips in early 2023 have been warned of another three months of problems caused by engineering works.

The line between Liverpool Street and Shenfield will be closed on January 7/8 and then every weekend from the start of February until the middle of March.

Passengers heading to London from Ipswich and other mainline stations will have to catch a bus connnection from Ingatestone to Newbury Park Central Line station - meaning their journeys will take about an hour longer.

And once those disruptions are over in mid-March, there will be more on the cards when work starts on building a new station at Beaulieu between Witham and Chelmsford.

The disruption in the New Year follows more engineering work at Liverpool Street between Christmas and January 2 which will mean people heading to and from London then will face the bus replacement.

Added to that are more strikes which will knock out most services every day between January 3 and January 7.

And more are likely to be called by the RMT and ASLEF unions if no settlement is reached with rail operators and the government.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: "While Christmas engineering work is currently the focus, we have a significant package of engineering work to continue to deliver into the New Year on both the Great Eastern and the West Anglia main lines that will affect some rail journey." 

East Anglian Daily Times: Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing directorJamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director (Image: Pic: nick strugnell© No Unauthorised Use.All rights reserved. Contact photographer before use.)

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: “These essential projects will help improve rail travel in the region and make the railway fit for the future. We appreciate customers’ patience while the work takes place.”

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has been a long-term critic of closures on the main line to London. He said: "I don't know if there is any other main route to the capital that has had as many closures as we have seen here.

"It is clear that since the pandemic more people are using the trains for leisure trips at weekends with fewer people commuting, so I don't know why they continue to target them.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich MP Tom HuntIpswich MP Tom Hunt (Image: House of Commons)

"This really does affect people's quality of life - it makes it much more difficult to travel for leisure and makes people feel cut off."

Figures show that the number of regular commuters have not fully recovered since the pandemic, but the number of leisure trips by train has returned to - or even exceeded - pre-pandemic figures.

Network Rail has said this would be taken into account when rail closures are considered - but a spokesman for the company said these closures were planned two years ago while the country was still in lockdown and it was unclear what form the recovery would take.