Another winter of rail disruption as London line hit by weekend closures

Colchester rail work

More engineering work will be taking place between Colchester and Chelmsford. - Credit: Network Rail

Rail passengers have been warned they face another winter of discontent - after a series of weekend line closures were announced on Greater Anglia trains to London.

The route between Colchester and Chelmsford will be closed on many weekends until November, starting this weekend, to allow track and ballast to be replaced by Network Rail.

There is likely to be widespread engineering work over the Christmas and New Year period - and early next year, there are likely to be five weekends of closures between Ipswich and Colchester, as track is renewed in the Manningtree area.

There could also be closures later during winter to allow work to be carried out on a bridge south of Colchester.

Details of the 2022 disruption will be published at the end of this year.

Network Rail announced the autumn programme of work, which will start with preparatory work this Sunday and then continue at weekends.

It will start on September 25 and 26, running through to November 20 and 21, with replacement bus services in place.

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There are two clear weekends, one in October and one in November. Trains will also run on Sunday, October 3 and Saturday, October 30. 

For the other weekends, there will be a bus link between Colchester and Ingatestone - except for this Sunday, September 5, when the bus link will operate from Marks Tey to Newbury Park on the Central line.

The latest closures come after years of disruption on lines between Stratford and Shenfield in preparation for Crossrail - which still has not opened - and, more recently, overhead line replacement between Chelmsford and London.

And the closures also come as passenger numbers have finally started to rise after the pandemic - led by leisure travellers who now often make weekend trains busier than weekday services.

Inter City train at Needham Market

More passengers are travelling at weekends - but they will have to use a bus for much of the winter. - Credit: Paul Geater

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “This package of work is essential to keep services running safely and reliably between Norwich and London and to minimise delays.

"I advise passengers to check before they travel and thank everyone for their patience while we carry out this important work.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: “We will be running a rail replacement bus service while the work takes place, so customers will be able to complete their journeys.

"Passengers should check before they travel, allow more time for their journey and wear a face covering when travelling by train or rail replacement bus and at our stations.

“We have several measures in place to keep customers safe including regular cleaning and sanitisation of trains and stations, and high levels of face covering compliance.

"We would like to thank customers for their patience while this work takes place.”