Main line from Ipswich to London should open for great return to work

Engineers working on overhead wires at Gidea Park on the rail line to London. Picture: NETWORK RAIL

Engineers working on overhead wires at Gidea Park on the rail line to London. Picture: NETWORK RAIL - Credit: Archant

Engineers working to replace overhead wires and replace track between Shenfield and Stratford on the main line to London are hopeful services will be able to return to normal on Tuesday morning.

By lunchtime on New Year’s Day all the overhead wire replacement work – which had closed the main line since December 22 – had been completed.

But there was still some track repair work being finished – although a spokesman for Network Rail said this was on schedule and they did not expect any problems with handing the track back to train operators during the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The work is the latest to be carried out to prepare for the introduction of Crossrail services on the Elizabeth Line at the end of this year.

It is also replacing overhead wires which have a design dating from the early 1950s making them more reliable and able to deal with extremes of temperature.

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A few years ago “over-running engineering works” were a common cause of delay for commuters at the start of the working week – but recently Network Rail has been much better at completing projects on time.

But this is not the last time engineering work will cause problems for travellers heading towards London.

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Network Rail has warned there will be a series of line closures every weekend from the end of January at least until Easter which is at the start of April – and there could be more closures during the spring.

However work on the suburban lines near London is nearing its completion. The first Crossrail trains under central London are due to run in December with the full service operating by December 2019.

During 2017 there were 24 weekends with the lines closed to London – passengers have to travel to Ingatestone by train and catch a special bus to Newbury Park tube station. That adds between 30 and 60 minutes to a journey to the capital.

This year Network Rail hopes there will be fewer total weekend closures – but cannot give full details beyond Easter because the company has to see what progress has been made.

But the spokesman said everything that had been planned during the 10-day Christmas closure had been completed.

Rail fares go up on first day back at work for most commuters

Rail fares have gone up by an average of 3.4% at the start of the year – prompting more irritation from passengers and renewed calls from unions for train companies to be re-nationalised.

That has pushed up an annual season ticket from Ipswich to London up from £6,323 to £6,458.

Greater Anglia’s fare rise is exactly in line with the national average which is set by the government and based on July’s inflation rate.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “The answer to this racket is a full return to public ownership of Britain’s railways and an end to this gross profiteering at the fare-payers expense.”

However Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators, said: “On average, fares will rise by less than inflation this year. For every pound paid in fares, 97p goes directly back to operating and improving services.”

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